Mercury Program

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Wed, March 20 2019

Decades of Inspiration from Chesley Bonestell

This guest blog post by space artist Ron Miller explores the impact illustrator Chesley Bonestell had on his life, and recounts 50 years of telling Bonestell's story.

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Tue, July 24 2018

Spaceflight and Surviving Shark Attacks

Shaq does shark week. Ronda Rousey against a bull shark. Bear Grylls faces off with … yes … a shark. Shark Week is full of celebrities having close encounters with one of the ocean’s greatest predators, but did you know early astronauts were also prepared for their own tussle with the fearsome fish?

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Tue, February 20 2018

How John Glenn Suited Up for Space

On February 20, 1962, John Glenn made history as the first American in orbit—a moment that changed history and reestablished the United States as a major force in the Space Race. Glenn's suit, specially designed and fitted just for him, helped make this achievement possible. The suit was adapted to act as life support, in case the Friendship 7 spacecraft malfunctioned.

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Mon, February 20 2017

Katherine Johnson, Hidden Figures, and John Glenn’s Flight

The flight of Friendship 7 has gained new resonance thanks to the movie Hidden Figures. Curator Michael Neufeld examines the movie through the lens of a space historian. Neufeld admits that the movie deviates from history often, but the movie was good, well-acted, inspirational, and important. The movie, and the book it is based on, are destined to change our national narrative about the space program and the people who contributed to it. 

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Fri, February 10 2017

A Closer Look at the Friendship 7 Spacecraft

We recently took new photographs of the Mercury Friendship 7 spacecraft following its conservation. This is the same spacecraft that John Glenn piloted into Earth orbit, an American first. The images reveal details of the spacecraft that can be easy to overlook when taking the capsule in as a whole. Are you able to pinpoint the circles in the capsule's heat sheild where NASA extracted samples to test durability? Or what about the eye chart inside the capsule that John Glenn was asked to use to test his vision? 

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A Closer Look at the Friendship 7 Spacecraft

Sat, December 24 2016

Merry Christmas Astronauts

In the early 1960s, the Project Mercury astronauts were celebrities in their own right, receiving bags of fan mail. One Christmas, Scott Carpenter received Christmas wishes featuring a model rocket, an American flag, and the sign, “Merry Christmas Astronauts.”  Carpenter received a photo of the scene and a note that read: “Best wishes to Navy Lt. Malcolm S. Carpenter from Mrs. L. T. Burns…Wichita Falls, Texas.”

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Sun, December 4 2016

Spacecraft Cookie Jar

Although sources may argue on the origins of National Cookie Day, two things are sugar-crystal clear: cookies are darn good, and the internet seems to agree that today is the day to celebrate them. In the 1960s, David McMahon and his family could have celebrated properly with a batch of chocolate chip cookies safely stored in this Mercury Friendship 7 cookie jar.

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Tue, April 29 2014

Mercury 7…..or 8???

In the mid twentieth century, the thought of sending humans into space was only the makings of science fiction. On April 9, 1959, sci-fi and reality merged as NASA introduced the seven American astronauts who would participate in the first human spaceflight program in the United States, Project Mercury. 

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Thu, February 16 2012

Friendship 7’s ‘Fourth Orbit’

The Friendship 7 space capsule was designed to orbit the earth and it did just that on February 20, 1962, with John Glenn, Jr. on board. It circled the globe three times before landing in the Atlantic Ocean. Three months later Friendship 7 began its second mission, or what was popularly referred to as its “fourth orbit:” a worldwide exhibition that was organized to promote and represent the United States and its space program in nearly 30 cities around the world.

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