The ‘Mercury 7’ moment, 56 years later

NASA’s image of the day today remembers the day 56 years ago today when seven men were identified who would get into a small can atop a bomb and try to go as far as they could just to see what would happen.

Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra, Gordon Cooper, Deke Slayton and John Glenn were the “Mercury 7,” the original NASA astronauts.


With its familiarity, space is boring to many Americans today, which makes us wonder whether today’s commemoration can ever adequately be appreciated by future generations.

Seven astronauts in training at Langley Research Center, Va., pose on July 7, 1959, with a model of the capsule one of them may ride into space in 1961. From Left to right are Air force Capt. Virgil Grissom, Air Force Capt. Donald Slayton, Air Force Capt. Beroy Cooper, Marine Lt. Col. John Glenn, Navy Lt. Malcolm Carpenter, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Alan Shapard and Navy Lt. Cmdr. Walter Schirra. (AP Photo/CPG)

As for the seven, only Glenn — the first American to orbit the earth — is still alive. He’ll be 94 in July.

He had good looks, a political resume from the U.S. Senate, a military career, and was a national hero. And he still couldn’t beat Walter Mondale for the 1984 Democratic nomination to run for president.