Project Mercury launched the first Americans into space. Mercury's goal was to orbit a manned spacecraft around the Earth, investigate a human's ability to survive and function in space, and safely return both pilot and craft. The nickel alloy and titanium capsule is small; as astronaut John Glenn said, "You don't get into it, you put it on." Yet its operating systems are so sophisticated that the capsule holds seven miles of electrical wire.
The Museum's reproduction is shown separated from the large booster rockets, as if in orbit. The retro-thrust rockets on the bottom of the capsule will be jettisoned before re-entry into Earth's atmosphere.
The Mercury Astronauts
The men selected to pilot the Mercury spacecraft were presented to the public on April 9, 1959. Alan Shepard Jr. undertook the first American sub-orbital flight into space on May 5, 1961. John Glenn Jr. orbited the Earth three times on February 20, 1962.