October 3, 1962 – Project Mercury: Sigma 7 is launched from Cape Canaveral, with astronaut Wally Schirra aboard, for a six-orbit, nine-hour flight.
Project Mercury was the first human spaceflight program of the United States running from 1959 through 1963. An early highlight of the Space Race, its goal was to put a human into Earth orbit and return the person safely, ideally before the Soviet Union. Taken over from the U.S. Air Force by the newly created civilian space agency NASA, it spanned twenty unmanned developmental missions involving test animals, and successful missions completed by six of the seven Mercury astronauts.
The Space Race had begun with the 1957 launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik 1. This came as a shock to the American public, and led to the creation of NASA to expedite existing U.S. space exploration efforts, and place most of them under civilian control. After the successful launch of the Explorer 1 satellite in 1958, manned spaceflight became the next goal.
Just think, if it hadn’t been for Sputnik 1, the television show “I Dream of Jeannie” might have never been created – it’s backdrop being the NASA organization and its wacky officers.
I display here for your philatelic and historical enjoyment, a United States stamp, in a block of 4, commemorating the Project Mercury program, issued February 20, 1962.