U.S. manned spaceflights were spectacular successes:
- May 1961--American
astronaut Alan Shepard went briefly into space, but not into orbit,
on the Mercury 3 mission.
- February 1962--John
Glenn spent five hours in orbit on Mercury 6.
- June 1965--Gemini
IV astronaut Edward White made the first U.S. spacewalk.
it seemed that the U.S. still lagged behind the U.S.S.R. in space,
in reality the United States was following a methodical step-by-step
program, in which each mission built upon and extended the previous
ones. The Mercury and Gemini missions carefully prepared the way
for the Apollo lunar missions.
Glenn, first American in orbit.
one-man Mercury missions developed hardware for safe spaceflight and
return to Earth, and began to show how human beings would fare in
space. From 1961 through 1963, the United States flew many test flights
and six manned Mercury missions.
Mercury NASA introduced Gemini, an enlarged, redesigned spacecraft
for two astronauts. Ten manned Gemini missions were flown from 1964
through 1966 to improve techniques of spacecraft control, rendezvous
and docking, and extravehicular activity (spacewalking). One Gemini
mission spent a record-breaking two weeks in space, time enough for
a future crew to go to the Moon, explore, and return.
| John Glenn's Mercury spacecraft
Friendship 7 and the Gemini IV spacecraft are displayed in the Milestones of Flight
hall in the center of the Museum.