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Abstract

There has been no shortage of literature written on the Mercury Space Program, focusing on many different aspects ranging from the personnel, technology, politics, and achievements of the program. The prevailing discussion of the space program focuses on the astronauts themselves as they gained celebrity status long before they had done anything to merit it. The vast body of scholarship on the topic takes the popularity of the Mercury Seven astronauts as matter-of-fact rather than viewing it as manufactured by NASA in order to bolster support for a largely unproven space program. By emphasizing the “everyman” aspect of the astronauts, the high-stakes element of the Cold War, and the image of the American ideal embodied by the program, the individual efforts of NASA and the press directed the attention of the public to the astronauts rather than the volatile technological performance. While the Mercury Seven would eventually earn the popularity they received from the beginning, NASA’s projection of the astronauts served to reassure the American public that their investment in the program would be fruitful.

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