On April 9, 1959, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) introduced the first American astronauts to the press: Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper Jr., John H. Glenn Jr., Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Walter Schirra Jr. , Alan Shepard Jr. and Donald Slayton. The seven men, all military test pilots, were carefully selected from a pool of 32 candidates to participate in Mercury Project, America’s first manned space program. NASA planned to begin manned orbital flights in 1961.

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