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Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper, 1959. Cooper, who retired from both NASA and the Air Force (as a colonel) in 1970, was the last Mercury astronaut launched into space, and spent more time aloft during his May 1963 mission (34-plus hours) than all five previous flights combined. (Ralph Morse—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images) See more:

Astronaut Walter M. "Wally" Schirra, one of the original seven astronauts for Mercury Project selected by NASA on April 27, 1959. The MA-8 (Mercury-Atlas) mission with Sigma 7 spacecraft was the third marned orbital flight by the United States, and made the six orbits in 9-1/4 hours.

February 20, 1962: John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth, aboard Friendship 7, on the Mercury-Atlas 6 mission, circling the globe three times during a flight lasting 4 hours, 55 minutes, and 23 seconds. This made Glenn the third American in space and the fifth human being in space.

Feb 20, 1962. Overall view of astronaut John Glenn, Jr., as he enters into the spacecraft Friendship 7 prior to MA-6 launch operations at Launch Complex 14. Astronaut Glenn is entering his spacecraft to begin the first American manned Earth orbital mission.

"Map of every known piece of space debris orbiting Earth" via @Bianca Prince

Infrared image of the Orion Nebula taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope.