The Original 7 Project Mercury Astronauts

Space Mission
Project Mercury, July 1960, Langley Air Force Base

Ralph Mose

Photo Description
Vintage gelatin silver print on fiber-based paper, 20.3 x 25.4cm (8 x 10in), with NASA credit stamp and NASA HQ caption on the verso

Front row, left to right: Walter Schirra, Donald “Deke” Slayton, John Glenn, and Scott Carpenter; back row, left to right: Alan Shepard, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, and Gordon Cooper.

This very famous photograph of the astronauts wearing their new Mercury spacesuits was made by long-time Life photographer Ralph Morse, a man who spent so much time with the Mercury Seven (and with the Gemini and Apollo crews as well) that John Glenn himself fondly dubbed him “the eighth astronaut” (Ben Cosgrove, TIME magazine,

Although the agency viewed Project Mercury’s purpose as an experiment to determine whether humans could survive space travel, the Original Seven astronauts immediately became national heroes and were compared by TIME magazine to “Columbus, Magellan, Daniel Boone, and the Wright brothers”.