Selecting Men for Early Astronauts Training
Before early astronauts training programs could commence, NASA needed to select individuals that fit the mold of its potential space flight projects. In 1959, the United States military was asked to submit candidates to NASA who fit criteria established by the organization. This criteria was considered for a long time by the leadership, namely, no one knew exactly what qualifications were needed to become an astronaut.
NASA determined that it needed applicants that were under 40 years old, had a height of under 5 feet 11 inches, were in good physical condition, had an engineering degree or equivalent, could fly a jet with at least 1500 hours of flight time and had graduated test pilot school. Given the stringent parameters, NASA believed they would be limited in applicants. To its surprise, over 500 men qualified.
After physical and psychological tests were conducted, the organization found seven men who qualified as the first astronauts. In April 1959, the seven men were debuted to the public. Soon, these early astronauts training sessions began with the purpose of ultimately taking part in the Mercury program.
Above right: Mercury Astronauts. (Supplied by NASA; Public Domain; http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5a/Project_Mercury_Astronauts_-_GPN-2000-000651.jpg)