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The Original 7 NASA Astronauts were the American Heroes throughout the 1960s. The courageous group of mostly fighter pilots, who answered John F. Kennedy’s call to action, and challenge to beat Russia to The Moon.
AMERICAN vs. RUSSIA
Some Russian thing called “Sputnik” flew by overhead, and the race to put a man on the moon was on.
Stairway to the Stars
b/ Ella Fitzgerald
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is created.
(NASA) invites test pilots, from around the United States Armed Services, to join its next generation of military aviators. Although Alan Shepard’s invitation was “lost in the mail,” and he never officially received an offer to join, he had always been on NASA’s list of selections of America’s Original 7 Astronauts.
Known as the Mercury 7, the group was made up of Shepard, John Glenn, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Donald “Deke” Slayton, Malcolm “Scott” Carpenter, Walter “Wally” Schirra and Gordon Cooper. After two years of grueling and dangerous training, Shepard was the one selected to pilot America’s first flight into space, with Glenn, serving as his backup.
The Launch of Freedom 7 took on a sense of urgency when the Soviet Union launched cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, and the Russians became the first to break free of the Earth’s atmosphere, and significantly, became the first person to orbit the Earth.
An important part of the Space Coast ritual, was after watching a launch, from the front yard, was to go back into the house, and listen to Walter Cronkite on the television, tell the rest of America what we locals had just seen live, in living color.
Some Russian thing called “Sputnik” flew by overhead,
and the race to put a man on the moon was on.
Flight To Be Free
The Soviets beat the Americans by less than a month. Shepard’s launch was initially scheduled for May 2, but was rescheduled twice because of bad weather.
May 5, 1961 — Freedom 7 lifted off, carrying Shepard to an altitude of 116 miles (187 kilometers) for a 15-minute, suborbital flight. Because of the placement of the porthole windows on his capsule, Shepard was unable to see the stars, and a filter on his telescope, looking back, made the Earth appear black and white. He was also strapped in too tight to experience weightlessness.
Although The Soviets had reached outer space first, and Gagarin had orbited the Earth, Shepard’s shorter, and suborbital flight had a more significant, worldwide impact. Unlike with Gagarin’s mostly secret mission, Shepard’s launch, flight, and splashdown were broadcast on live television, and seen by millions, all around the World.
While the Russians publicized Gagarin’s name was publicized, many of the details of his flight were kept confidential for years, including the fact that he had he abandoned his capsule, and parachuted to Earth, rather than landing his spacecraft. Shepard was also ceremonially awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, at the White House by president John F. Kennedy.
LURE OF THE MOON
Back To Earth
Feet On The Ground
— SOUL TRAIN 1971-1979 (Vol.2)
Frederick Douglas brought into the (’70s) now.
Fly Me To The Moon
b/ Allan Harris
Tom Wolfe’s book (movie) “The Right Stuff” is one of the best told stories about America’s Space Program. Specifically, the Mercury Program, and the Original 7 astronauts who were chosen to explore outer space.
1947 — The Muroc Army Air Field in California has test pilots fly high-speed aircraft such as the rocket-powered Bell X-1, but some are killed as a result. After another pilot, Slick Goodlin, demands $150,000 (equivalent to $1,683,000 in 2018) to attempt to break the sound barrier, war hero Captain Chuck Yeager receives the chance to fly the X-1. While on a horseback ride with his wife Glennis, Yeager collides with a tree branch and breaks his ribs, which inhibits him from leaning over and locking the door to the X-1. Worried that he might not fly the mission, Yeager confides in friend and fellow pilot Jack Ridley. Ridley cuts off part of a broomstick and tells Yeager to use it as a lever to help seal the hatch to the X-1, and Yeager becomes the first person to fly at supersonic speed, defeating the “demon in the sky.”
Six years later, Muroc, now Edwards Air Force Base, still attracts the best test pilots. Yeager (now a major) and friendly rival Scott Crossfield repeatedly break the other’s speed records. They often visit the Happy Bottom Riding Club run by Pancho Barnes, who classifies the pilots at Edwards as either “prime” (such as Yeager and Crossfield) that fly the best equipment or newer “pudknockers” who only dream about it.
“No bucks, No Buck Rogers.”
Officials understand, that rather than keep their test program secret, it would be better for fund raising if they promoted the most exciting new program, rather than hide it.
Cooper’s wife, Trudy, and other wives are afraid of becoming widows, but cannot change their husbands’ ambitions and desire for success and fame.
The search for the first Americans in space excludes Yeager because he lacks a college degree.
The Original Seven
• Mercury 7 Astronauts
• John Glenn
• Alan Shepard
• Wally Schirra
• Scott Carpenter
• Gordon “Gordo” Cooper
• Virgil “Gus” Grissom
• Donald “Deke” Slayton
April 12, 1961 — Yuri Gagarin, the Russian, having been the First Man In Space, inspires a humiliated United States of America. The Original Seven couldn’t have been more motivated to get in the Race to The Moon.
May 5, 1961 — Alan Shepard is the First “American” In Space
(15-minute, sub-orbital flight, rocket: Redstone 3)
February 20, 1962 — John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the Earth (Mercury/Atlas 6). After surviving a fiery re-entry with a dangerously loose heat shield on his capsule, Glenn splashed down a celebrity. After a ticker-tape parade (5th Ave. NYC), he, his fellow astronauts, and their families became the center of pop culture attention, including a Texas-size celebration in the Sam Houston Coliseum to announce the opening of the Manned Space Center in Houston.