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Mercury/Atlas rocket, Big Joe spacecraft, Pad-LC-14, September 9, 1959 by MrDanBeaumont

An Atlas booster surges skyward from the launch pad carrying astronaut Wally Schirra. He rides atop inside Sigma 7, the tiny black and white capsule surmounted by the red escape tower.

Launch of Mercury-Redstone by NASA 1961

NASA selected Astronaut L. Gordon Cooper in 1959 as one of the 7 astronauts for their Mercury Project. In 1 1/2 days, the Faith 7 spacecraft orbited the Earth 22 times. (photo: NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Collection)

50 Years Ago: Freedom 7 Flies Credit: NASA Fifty years ago, near the dawn of the space age, NASA controllers "lit the candle" and sent Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard arcing into space atop a Redstone rocket. His cramped space capsule was dubbed Freedom 7. Broadcast live to a global television audience, the historic Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3) spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral Florida at 9:34 a.m. Eastern Time on May 5, 1961...

Mercury-Atlas 4 launch (September 13, 1961).