Shooting stars

A new photo book gathers images from NASA’s early manned space flights.

two astronauts
From left: John Glenn and Alan Shepard at Hangar S. in Cape Canaveral.

Published on Show Me Mizzou Sept. 4, 2023

“Project Mercury today may seem like distant history, reflected by an era of magazine covers, newspaper clippings, and black-and-white newsreels, but from 1959 to 1963 it captured the imagination, pride, and hope of the American people,” writes John Bisney, BJ ’76, in the introduction to Photographing America’s First Astronauts, a new book highlighting the work of Bill Taub, NASA’s first photographer. Co-authored by J.L. Pickering, the 312-page book (Purdue University Press) is dense with hundreds of photographs that document the Mercury missions to the moon and the astronauts who crammed into rockets designed to withstand the fury of fiery fuel propelling them into outer space. 

The photograph above features Alan Shepard and John Glenn in the suit room at Hangar S in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Now retired, after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism, Bisney covered the U.S. space program for more than three decades. He did so for outlets including CNN Radio, the Discovery Science Channel and Sirius XM. This is Bisney’s fifth space-photography book with Pickering.

astronauts on stage
Left to right: NASA public affairs officer John “Shorty” Powers with astronauts Deke Slayton, Walter Schirra, Gordon Cooper, Scott Carpenter, Gus Grissom, John Glenn and Alan Shepard.
astronaut in training
John Glenn in Mercury Procedures Trainer No. 1 at Langley Air Force Base. Trainers provided an oxygen supply to the cabin and the suit to better simulate space flight. Most sessions were devoted to launch aborts.
Walter Kronkite broadcasting on site
CBS News correspondent Walter Cronkite provides updates on launch morning activity on July 19, 1961.
men talking to John F. Kennedy
Paul Wignall (left), commander of the 6555th Aerospace Test Wing, briefs astronaut Walter Schirra (center) and President John Kennedy on Sept. 11, 1962.
men talking with astronaut
John Glenn goes over procedures in Hangar S at Langley with Dr. William Douglas (left) and astronaut Scott Carpenter (right) on Jan. 19, 1962.
parade motorcade
John Glenn and his family ride with Vice President Lyndon Johnson near Cape Canaveral in a Buick convertible.

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