The books “We Seven” and “The Right Stuff” discussed some requirements for the astronauts for the Mercury Project of NASA.

The candidate

  • must be a Military Test Pilot
  • must not be too young or too old
  • must not be too tall (not to fit inside the small space capsule)
  • must not weigh a lot (to minimize the power required to lift off)
  • must be married (so as to have a yearning to get back to earth)
  • must pass the medical (physical, stress, …)

A lot of people were disappointed. The list included Chuck Yeager who had broken the Mach limit, and pilots who are civilian pilots, bachelors, tall and heavy (but strong).

  • Seven were chosen for the Mercury Program.
  • Alan Shepard and Virgil “Gus” Grissom flew sub-orbital flights.
  • John Glenn, Walter Schirra, Scott Carpenter and Gordon Cooper flew orbital flights.
  • Deke Slayton was “grounded” because of a heart murmur. He became the Director, who led the selection of the Space crews.

Several more were chosen for the Gemini and Apollo programs.

Some restrictions were relaxed.

  • Neil Armstrong (Commander of Apollo 11) was a Civilian Test Pilot.
  • Swigert, member of the ill-fated Apollo 13 crew, is single.

NASA later launched programs for

  • Space Shuttle
  • Sky Lab
  • Participation in the International Space Station


  • Yuri Gagarin was the first USSR Cosmonaut.
  • USSR held several Space records (e.g. EVA, first female) until it was taken over by NASA with the Moon Landings.
  • Several other nations (e.g. Japan, China) trained astronauts.

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