Apr 11, 2024

From NASA’s First Astronaut Class to Artemis II: The Importance of Military Jet Pilot Experience

Posted by in categories: military, space

On April 9, 1959, reporters and news media crammed into the ballroom of the Dolley Madison House in Washington—the location of NASA Headquarters at that time—to learn the names of the first American astronauts who came to be known as the Mercury 7. Public Information Director Walter Bonney kicked off the announcement by pointing to the seven men sitting on stage. “These are our astronaut volunteers,” he announced. “Take your pictures as you will, gentlemen.” One of those men on the dais, Deke Slayton, a test pilot from Edwards Air Force Base, recalled the pandemonium he witnessed. “I’ve never seen anything like it, before or since.” He described the event as, “a frenzy of light bulbs and questions…it was some kind of roar.” His colleague, Wally Schirra, a test pilot from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, called the media’s interest scary because he soon came to realize that their, “private lives were in jeopardy.”

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