TEAMQUEST'S SPACEFLIGHT HOMEPAGE
Only in comic books and sci-fi movies did we see spacemen in action. We were treated to the heroics of Buck Rogers, X minus One, The War of the Worlds. No one ever imagined that we humans would be soon traveling into space. Then in 1959 the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration asked the United States military services to list their members who met specific qualifications. The search was underway for pilots for the exciting new manned space flight program. In seeking its first space pilots, NASA emphasized jet aircraft flight experience and engineering training. NASA had strict physical requirements regarding physique due to the small space in the Mercury capsule.
The Military supplied NASA the list of qualifiers and the search was on. Soon it was common knowledge that an elite program was underway and applicants were contacted. The applicants were to fall under these guidelines.
Basically, those 1959 requirements were as follows:
- 1). Applicant must be less than 40 years of age.
- 2). Applicant must be 5ft. 11 inches tall or shorter.
- 3). Applicant must be in excellent physical condition.
- 4). Applicant must posess Bachelor's Degree or equivalent in Engineering.
- 5). Applicant must be a qualified jet pilot; a graduate of test pilot school, and have at least 1500 hours of flying time.
More than 500 hundred men qualified. Military and medical records were
examined; psychological and technical tests were given; personal interviews
were conducted by psychological and medical specialists. At the end of the
first screening, many candidates were eliminated and others decided they did
not want to be considered further.
Even more stringent physical and psychological examinations followed. For more information on the tests that the astronauts had to endure see: TESTS THAT WOULD GROSS YOU OUT. In April 1959 NASA announced its selection of seven men as the first American
astronauts. These men instantly became national hereos and were pushed into the limelight.
The First Seven US Astronauts are (left to right):
FRONT ROW: Walter M. Schirra JR, Donald "Deke" Slayton, John H. Glenn JR, M. Scott Carpenter.
REAR ROW: Alan B. Shepard JR, Virgil "Gus" Grissom, L. Gordon Cooper.
Each flew in PROJECT MERCURY except Slayton, who was grounded with a previously undiscovered heart condition. After doctors certified that the condition had cleared up, Slayton realized his ambition to fly in space 16 years after his selection. He was a member of the American crew of the APOLLO-SOYUZ TEST PROJECT in July 1975, the world's first international manned space flight.
Three years after that first selection, NASA issued another call for
Gemini and Apollo astronaut trainees. Experience in flying high-performance
aircraft still was stressed, as was education. The limit on age was lowered
to 35 years, the maximum height raised to 6 feet, and the program was opened
to qualified civilians. This second recruitment brought in more than 200
applications. The list was screened to 32, then finally down to nine in
Fourteen more astronaut trainees were chosen from nearly 300 applicants in
October 1963. By then, prime emphasis had shifted away from flight experience
toward superior academic qualifications. In October 1964 applications were
invited on the basis of educational background alone. These were the
scientist-astronauts, so called because the 400-plus applicants who met
minimum requirements had a doctorate or equivalent experience in natural
sciences, medicine, or engineering.
These applications were turned over to the National Academy of Sciences in
Washington for evaluation. Sixteen were recommended to NASA, and six were
selected in June 1965. Although the call for volunteers did not specify
flight experience, two of the applicants were qualified jet pilots and did not
need the year of basic flight training given the others.
Another 19 pilot astronauts were brought into the program in April 1966,
and 11 scientist-astronauts were added in mid-1967. When the Air Force Manned
Orbiting Laboratory program was cancelled in mid 1969, seven astronaut
trainees transferred to NASA.
GO TO WHERE THE US SPACE PROGRAM PICKS UP STEAM.
GO TO THE TEAMQUEST '96 MERCURY PAGE.
GO HERE FOR MORE SPACE FLIGHT INFORMATION ON THE WEB.
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Last Updated by TeamQuest '96 c/o email@example.com on August 15th 1996 at 20:59:59 PDT