“We set sail on this new sea . . .”
On April 9, 1959, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) introduced America’s first astronauts to the press—Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Virgil Grissom, Walter Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Donald Slayton. The seven men, all military test pilots, were carefully selected from a final group of thirty-two candidates.
But the real truth of NASA’s search for America’s best pilots is not found in the thirty-two finalists that eventually produced Project Mercury’s heroic list of space pioneers. The Original Seven Mercury astronauts chosen to lead America’s charge into a new frontier were certainly worthy. They were America’s best and brightest.
But perhaps the very best never got the chance and served his country in obscurity.