• The "Mercury 7" astronauts in Mercury space suits during training at NASA Langley Research Center, Viriginia, left to right, back row: Alan Shepard, Virgil "Gus" Grissom and L. Gordon Cooper and front row: Walter Schirra, Donald "Deke" Slayton, John Glenn and Scott Carpenter. Courtesy of the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

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    Mercury Project, Astronauts, Training; Shepard, Alan B., Jr.; Grissom, Virgil Ivan "Gus"; Cooper, Leroy Gordon, Jr; Schirra, Walter Marty, Jr "Wally"; Slayton, Donald Kent "Deke"; Glenn, John H.; Carpenter, M. Scott; Clothing, Space Suits, Mercury, Navy Mark IV. [photograph]
    • Date
    • 4/16/1961
    • Creator
    • National Aeronatics and Space Administration (NASA).
    • Description
    • The "Mercury 7" astronauts in Mercury space suits during training at NASA Langley Research Center, Viriginia, left to right, back row: Alan Shepard, Virgil "Gus" Grissom and L. Gordon Cooper and front row: Walter Schirra, Donald "Deke" Slayton, John ... more
      The "Mercury 7" astronauts in Mercury space suits during training at NASA Langley Research Center, Viriginia, left to right, back row: Alan Shepard, Virgil "Gus" Grissom and L. Gordon Cooper and front row: Walter Schirra, Donald "Deke" Slayton, John Glenn and Scott Carpenter. All are wearing Mercury space suits (modified Navy Mk.IV pressure suits). Photo released July 16, 1961. less
    • Partner
    • Smithsonian Institution
    • Contributing Institution
    • National Air and Space Museum Archives

  • Photograph of Neil Armstrong on the Moon. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

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    Photograph of Neil Armstrong on the Moon
    • Creator
    • National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Manned Spacecraft Center. Science and Applications Directorate. 1/1967-2/17/1973.
    • Description
    • This item is a photograph of Neil Armstrong on the moon.
    • Rights
    • Unrestricted.
    • Partner
    • National Archives and Records Administration
    • Contributing Institution
    • National Archives at Fort Worth

  • Sally Ride, America's first woman astronaut. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

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    [Sally Ride] America's first woman astronaut communitcates with ground controllers from the flight deck during the six day mission of the Challenger.
    • Creator
    • U.S. Information Agency. (8/24/1982 - 10/1/1999).
    • Rights
    • Unrestricted.
    • Partner
    • National Archives and Records Administration
    • Contributing Institution
    • National Archives at College Park - Still Pictures

  • Dr. Mae C. Jemison, the first African American woman in space. Courtesy of National Air and Space Administration.

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    Dr. Mae C. Jemison, First African-American Woman in Space
    • Creator
    • National Air and Space Administration
    • Description
    • The first African-American woman in space, Dr. Mae C. Jemison was born on October 17, 1956 in Decatur, Alabama but considers Chicago, Illinois her hometown. She received a Bachelor in Chemical Engineering (and completed the requirements for a Bachelo... more
      The first African-American woman in space, Dr. Mae C. Jemison was born on October 17, 1956 in Decatur, Alabama but considers Chicago, Illinois her hometown. She received a Bachelor in Chemical Engineering (and completed the requirements for a Bachelor in African and Afro-American studies) at Stanford University in 1977. Dr. Jemison also received a Doctorate degree in medicine from Cornell University in 1981. After medical school she did post graduate medical training at the Los Angeles County University of Southern California Medical Center. As an area Peace Corps medical officer for Sierra Leone and Liberia in West Africa, she managed the health care delivery system for U.S. Peace Corps and U.S. Embassy personnel. Jemison's background includes work in the areas of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and reproductive biology. She also developed and participated in research projects on the Hepatitis B vaccine and rabies. Jemison was a General Practitioner and attending graduate Engineering classes in Los Angeles when she was named an astronaut candidate in 1987. She flew her first flight as a science mission specialist on STS-47, Spacelab-J, in September 1992. She was co-investigator for the Bone Cell Research Experiment on that mission. In completing her first space flight, Jemison logged 190 hours, 30 minutes and 23 seconds in space. Jemison resigned from NASA in March 1993. In 1994, she founded and began a term as chair of The Earth We Share (TEWS), an annual international science camp where students, aged 12 to 16, work together to solve current global dilemmas. From 1995-2002 she was a professor of Environmental Studies at Dartmouth College. She is currently director of the Jemison Institute for Advancing Technology in developing countries. She is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including induction into the National Women's Hall of Fame and several corporate boards of directors on the Texas Governor's State Council for Science and Biotechnology Development. Dr. Jemison published her memoirs, Find Where DE:the Wind Goes:Moments from My Lifein 2001. She currently resides in Houston, Texas. less
    • Rights
    • Public domain

The first applicants to the NASA astronaut program, competing for a spot on the Mercury project flight crew, were military test pilots. There were only a few requirements for the initial application process which included age and hours logged in flight. A key qualification, however, was a height of under 5’11”, since the Mercury spacecraft was small. After rounds of rigorous physical tests and exams, 110 pilot applicants were narrowed down to seven NASA astronauts, later known as the Mercury 7, in April 1959. Among the original seven astronauts was Alan Shepard, a Navy test pilot who became the first American in space.

Training for the Apollo crew was similarly intense. Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the Moon, and the other NASA astronauts had to simulate the lunar walk in its entirety. This included picking up rock samples on a fake moonscape and practicing planting the American flag on the Moon’s surface, sometimes using a simulator to mimic reduced gravity conditions. The Apollo crew also had to undergo survival training for a variety of climatesincluding the desert and junglein case they crash-landed during their return to Earth.

In the twenty years after the successful Apollo 11 mission in 1969, many other astronauts broke barriers in the NASA training program. In the 1960s, the astronaut training program was limited to white men. In 1983, aerospace engineer and astronaut Guion Stewart Bluford, Jr., became the first African American man in space. Four years later, Sally Ride became the first woman in space, after replying to an ad for the astronaut program in the Stanford University student newspaper. In 1992, aboard the Endeavour shuttle, astronaut Mae Jemison became the first African American women to travel in space. Jemison was inspired to travel to space, she later said, by the character of Lieutenant Uhura on the 1960s television show Star Trek.