Epic History

Exploring American history, one epic record from the National Archives at a time

Run by the Foundation for the National Archives

On April 9, 1959, NASA announced the first seven American astronauts: Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra, Gordon Cooper, and Deke Slayton. These men would collectively become known as the “Mercury Seven.”

The men considered themselves to be military test pilots but became instant national heroes. However, they were caught in the middle of the larger Cold War rivalry and space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. NASA, concerned about the growing competition between the two countries, sent this memo proposing to publicly work with Russia. Two of the seven, Walter M. Schirra and Donald K. Slayton, in an apparent protest to this, crossed their names out and did not sign.

These documents are featured in the “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures" exhibit at the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC, through January 5, 2015.

“Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures” is made possible in part by the Foundation for the National Archives with the generous support of Lead Sponsor AT&T. Major additional support provided by the Lawrence F. O’Brien Family and members of the Board of the Foundation for the National Archives.

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