“They were a hell of a group. They were the best America had to offer. I think they brought a lot of prestige and honor to their country, I really do. Those first seven led the way. They really are the true pioneers.

They’re very special, each in their own way. Not only to me, but I think to a lot of people. They are national treasures.”

-Dee O’Hara, nurse to NASA astronauts, on the Mercury Seven

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. 


The Seven amazing astronauts of Mercury 7:

Gus Grissom, Alan Shepard, Deke Slayton, Gordon “Gordo” Cooper, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, and Wally Schirra.

These men were chosen to be the first 7 official astronauts for the United States. They did what many others would be horrified to do, and they did it proudly.

I think it’s fortunate that the doctors took Deke off flight status, because he had the integrity and the dedication to run that Flight Crew Operations Division with integrity and in a way that makes sense. So I think—and Deke, you know, so he didn’t blow up and leave or any—he just stayed there and did his job. He was committed. He was one of the great people in the program.

 - Frank speaking about Deke.

Deke Slayton: Shuttle Commander?

It almost happened. Back in the 1970s, Deke was in charge of the shuttle’s Approach and Landing Tests (ALT) and the Orbital Flight Test (OFT) programs. By 1980, Deke lobbied Chris Kraft and George Abbey to command one of the first operational shuttle flights. Unfortunately, this request fell on deaf ears, and Deke retired from NASA in 1982.

At least we got a nice picture of Deke in a Shuttle flight suit!