Project Mercury - The First Americans in Space
Mercury Space Capsule
Mercury-Redstone and Mercury-Atlas rockets. (With human figure for scale.)
Started in 1958, Project Mercury was the United States' first manned spacecraft program. The program included a number of unmanned test flights, some including primates, prior to flying human astronauts.
A total of six manned missions were flown. Two suborbital missions were followed by four orbital missions. Suborbital missions were launched using Redstone rockets, while orbital flights were made using Atlas launchers.
Manned Mercury Missions
|Freedom 7 ||5 MAY 1961 ||MR-3 ||Redstone (MR-7)||--- ||Alan B. Shepard, Jr.||Suborbital flight|
|Liberty Bell 7||21 JUL 1961 ||MR-4 ||Redstone (MR-8)||--- ||Virgil "Gus" Grissom||Suborbital flight|
|Friendship 7 ||20 FEB 1962 ||MA-6 ||Atlas (109-D) ||3 ||John H. Glenn, Jr.||Orbital flight|
|Aurora 7 ||24 MAY 1962 ||MA-7 ||Atlas (107-D) ||3 ||M. Scott Carpenter||Orbital flight|
|Sigma 7 ||3 OCT 1962 ||MA-8 ||Atlas (113-D) ||6 ||Walter M. Schirra, Jr.||Orbital flight|
|Faith 7 ||15 MAY 1963 ||MA-9 ||Atlas (130-D) ||22 ||L. Gordon Cooper||Orbital flight|
Mercury MR-4 Capsule
Mercury MR-4 (Liberty Bell 7) Capsule. Launched on July 21, 1961, astronaut Gus Grissom conducted a sub-orbital flight in this spacecraft. (Photos: John Karpiej, 2005)
Mercury MA-6 Capsule
Mercury MA-6 (Friendship 7) Capsule on display at the National Air and Space Museum. Launched on February 20, 1962, astronaut John Glenn conducted three orbits in this spacecraft. (Photos: Richard Kruse, 2008)
Mercury MA-7 Capsule
Mercury MA-7 (Aurora 7) Capsule on display at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. Launched on May 24, 1962, astronaut Scott Carpenter conducted three orbits in this spacecraft. (Photos: Richard Kruse, 2008)
Mercury MA-8 Capsule
Mercury MA-8 (Sigma 7) Capsule on display at the Astronaut Hall of Fame. Launched on October 3, 1962, astronaut Wally Schirra conducted six orbits in this spacecraft. (Photos: Richard Kruse, 2009)
Mercury MA-9 Capsule
Mercury MA-9 (Faith 7) Capsule on display at Space Center Houston. Launched on May 15, 1963, astronaut Gordon Cooper conducted 22.5 orbits in this spacecraft. (Photos: Kevin Barrett, 2009)
Mercury Capsule 12B (Unflown)
Mercury Capsule 12B on display at Kennedy Space Center. This spacecraft served as a backup for Wally Schirra's MA-8 (Sigma 7) mission. (Photos: Richard Kruse, 2009)
Mercury 15B Capsule (Unflown)
Mercury 15B (Freedom 7 II) Capsule on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center. (Photos: Richard Kruse, 2008)
Mercury Capsule 17 (Unflown)
Mercury Capsule on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Although this spacecraft is flight-rated, it was not flown. (Photos: Richard Kruse, 2007)
The first successful Mercury-Redstone rocket flew on 19DEC1960. The rocket was used to launch Mercury capsules on suborbital trajectories into space. On 5MAY1961, a Mercury-Redstone launched America's first astronaut, Alan Sheppard, into space. On 21JUL1961, another Mercury-Redstone launched Virgil Gus Grissom into space.
Mercury-Redstone at the US Space and Rocket Center
(Photos: Richard Kruse, 2007)
Mercury-Redstone at the Kennedy Space Center Rocket Garden
(Photos: Richard Kruse, 2009)
Mercury-Atlas Rocket Photos
Atlas D (37D) Displayed in Mercury-Atlas configuration.
Atlas-D rocket on display at Kennedy Space Center. (Photos: Richard Kruse, 2009)
Loyd S. Swenson Jr., James M. Grimwood, and Charles C. Alexander, This New Ocean: A History of Project Mercury, NASA SP-4201. 1966.
James M. Grimwood, Project Mercury: A Chronology, NASA SP-4001, 1963.
Images by Richard Kruse are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.