Originally published in 1966 by the Scientific and Technical Information Division of NASA as part of The NASA Historical Series, this official account of Project Mercury is available online as a series of HTML files here or as a portable PDF file here. In essence, our understanding of space flight exist because of the accomplishments of Project Mercury, and this is that history as published three years after the ending of that program.
Already Project Mercury has come to be regarded as a single episode in the history of flight and of the United States. Rather, it was many episodes, many people, many days of inspiration, frustration, and elation. Journalists and other contemporary observers have written millions of words, taken thousands of photographs, and produced hundreds of reports, official and otherwise, on the origins, development, failures, successes, and significance of this country’s first efforts in the manned exploration of space. The foremost image of Mercury emerging from its mountainous publicity was that of seven selected test pilots called “astronauts.” Central as were their roles and critical as were their risks in the individual manned flights, the astronauts themselves did not design, develop, or decide the means and [xii] ends of the overall program. Thousands of engineers, scientists, technicians, and administrators, as well as the seven astronauts, cooperated to fulfill Mercury’s goals, and this program history tries to blend and balance the personal, social, and technical facets of the project as it progressed.
This history of Project Mercury is, in more than the usual sense, drawn from the memory of many of the primary participants in the program. They provided much of the documentation upon which this narrative is based, and some 150 of them have commented upon all or parts of a review edition before publication. They are not responsible, however, for the selection, organization, or interpretations of facts as here presented. If errors persist in this account, the fault lies solely with the authors.
Images from the Project Mercury Wikipedia entry.