The Mercury Seven in 1960. Back row: Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, Gordon Cooper; front row: Wally Schirra, Deke Slayton, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter. This was the only time they would appear together in pressure suits. Slayton and Glenn are wearing spray-painted work boots.
On April 9, 1959, the Mercury Seven were introduced to the world (and each other) for the first time. Scott Carpenter, Gordo Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Deke Slayton were announced as NASA’s original astronauts, “selected to begin training for orbital space flight.”
“I’ve never seen anything like it, before or since. It was just a frenzy of light bulbs and questions. It was some kind of roar. I know I stumbled through a couple of answers.
What was the real surprise was watching John Glenn. Someone asked if our wives were behind us. Six of us said, ‘Sure,’ as if that had ever been a real consideration. Glenn piped up with a damn speech about God and family and destiny. We all looked at him, and then each other.”
On 9 April 1959, NASA announced the “Mercury 7″ astronauts who would
become the first Americans in space. Pictured here
from right to left are the astronauts: Walter Schirra, Alan Shepard, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Donald “Deke” Slayton, John Glenn,
Scott Carpenter, and Gordon Cooper,
Originally selected as one of the Mercury 7 (America’s first group of 7 astronauts), Deke Slayton was grounded before his first flight because of an irregular heartbeat.
In spite of the setback, Deke stayed on with NASA to help the then fledgling space program, first as Chief of the Astronaut Office and then as Head of Flight Operations.
Throughout his time at NASA, Slayton never gave up hope that he would one day be restored to flight status. He did everything and anything he could to try and reverse his condition: he exercised, consumed copious amount of vitamins, and quit cigarettes and coffee for good.
Amazingly,16 years after being grounded, Slayton finally fulfilled his dream of earning his astronaut wings when his medical condition suddenly disappeared.
He finally went to space as part of the Apollo-Soyuz Project in 1975. And, at age 51, he became the world’s oldest space rookie.
The crew of Apollo 11 (Armstrong on left, Aldrin seated) at work prepping for their EVA on the moon. Former Mercury Seven astronaut Donald “Deke” Slayton (far right) looks on. Slayton was pulled from his scheduled Mercury mission due to heart conditions, but stayed on and served as a coordinator of astronaut activities and performed with distinction. He would later restored to flight status and flew on the Apollo/Soyuz mission.