Astronauts in Project Mercury, the first U.S. human spaceflight program, experienced very strong "g" forces during acceleration into space and deceleration during reentry--up to 11 times Earth's gravity. To better withstand these forces, each astronaut had special form-fitted couches made for their bodies. John H. Glenn, Jr., the first American to orbit the Earth, used this couch for "g" training in the centrifuge at the Naval Air Development Center in Johnsville, Pennsylvania, between 1959 and 1962.
To create this couch, a NASA contractor made a plaster cast of the astronaut's body in a sitting position, then used the form to make the couch out of fiberglass. NASA transferred this artifact to the Smithsonian in 1968.
Transferred from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration