Out of a group of 110 military pilots, seven were chosen to become America's first Astronauts, the Mercury Seven. They all gave their spacecraft a name which ended with a 7 to emphasize the teamwork among them. Before they could go on their mission tests on animals, and even a breathing robot were conducted.
On May 5, 1961, a Redstone, that was given the name Freedom 7, was ready to take off. It took Allan B. Shepard Jr. on a 15 minute space ride that was watched by 45 million Americans on TV. He had the experience of weightlessness for five minutes while he was traveling in a height of 187km.
Nine months later it was John H. Glenn's turn to make the first trip with an Atlas-D, which he had named Friendship 7. Glenn remained in the orbit for almost five hours, circling Earth three times. After experiencing a sunrise and a sunset in space he returned safely to Earth as a national hero. The primary objective of the "Mercury Project" was thus fulfilled.
Other Mercury missions followed, most noticeably Faith 7 the last one which started in May 1963. It was supposed to be an endurance test. L. Gordon Cooper spent 34 hours in space and rounded Earth 22 times. On board he slept, and made some great pictures of the Earth. He was also the first person to launch a satellite in space.