On October 7, 1958, the new National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced Project Mercury, its first major enterprise. At the time, it was unknown if manned crafts could orbit Earth – or what the effects would be on any human who attempted such a thing.
At a press conference in Washington DC on April 9, NASA introduced the Mercury Seven to the public. These were the best of the best, the educated test pilots who had passed all the physical and mental screenings estimated to gauge possible space travelers. The men were dubbed "astronauts," a term deriving from the Greek words ástron (meaning star) and nautes (sailor).
- Orbit a manned spacecraft around Earth
- Investigate man's ability to function in space
- Recover both man and spacecraft safely