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Sir Arthur Harden
Sir Arthur Harden was an English biochemist and a Nobel Prize winner
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The project is renamed Project Mercury7.10.1958

Wikipedia (01 Oct 2013, 14:35)

Project Mercury was the first human spaceflight program of the United States led by its newly created space agency NASA. It ran from 1959 through 1963 with the goal of putting a human in orbit around the Earth, and doing it before the Soviet Union, as part of the early space race. It involved 7 astronauts flying a total of 6 solo trips. On 5 May 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American in space in a suborbital flight after the Soviet Union had put Yuri Gagarin into space and orbit one month earlier. John Glenn became the first American to reach orbit on 20 February 1962, he was the third person to do so, after soviet Gherman Titov had made a day long flight in August 1961. When the project ended in May 1963, the Americans' NASA program was still behind the Soviet Space Program, but the gap was seen as closing. The race to the Moon began.

The space race started in 1957 by the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik I. This came as a shock to the American public and led to the creation of NASA to gather the efforts in space exploration already existing in USA. After the launch of the first American satellite in 1958, manned space flight became the next goal. The spacecraft was produced by McDonnell Aircraft. It was cone shaped with room for one person together with supplies of water, food and oxygen in a pressurized cabin. It was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida by modified military missiles, most importantly Atlas D, and had a rescue tower for protection from a failing rocket. The whole flight could be controlled from the ground through a network of tracking stations which also allowed communication with the astronaut. If necessary, the astronaut could override commands from the ground. For reentry into Earth's atmosphere, small rockets were used to bring the spacecraft out of its orbit. A heatshield would protect the spacecraft from the friction of the air and, a parachute would slow the craft for a water landing. Here both astronaut and spacecraft were picked up by helicopter and brought to a ship.

From a slow start with humiliating mistakes the Mercury Project became popular and the manned flights were followed by millions on radio and TV not only in United States but around the world. Apart from the manned missions, Mercury had a total of 20 unmanned launches as a part of the development of the project. This also involved test animals, most famously the chimpanzees Ham and Enos. Mercury laid the groundwork for Project Gemini and the follow-on Apollo moon-landing program, which was announced a few weeks after the first manned flight. The astronauts went under the name Mercury Seven and they named their spacecraft with a "7" to the name. The project name was taken from Mercury, a Roman god. It is estimated to have cost $1.68 billion and have involved the work of 2 million people.


Project Mercury was officially approved 7 October 1958 and publicly announced on 17 December. Originally it was called Project Astronaut, but president Eisenhower thought that it gave too much attention to the pilot. Instead the name Mercury was chosen from Greek-Roman mythology, which already lent name to rockets like Atlas and Jupiter It absorbed military projects with the same aim such as the Air Force Man-in-Space-Soonest.

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