New Photo Book Gives Unpublished View into Project Mercury and America’s First Astronauts

Project Mercury holds a special place in the pantheon of space exploration. Not only did it successfully send the first Americans into orbit to keep pace with the Soviet Union during a worrisome 1960s Space Race, but also it was a remarkable engineering achievement on its own. Mercury today may seem like distant history, reflected by an era of magazine covers, newspapers clippings, and black-and-white newsreels, but from 1959 to 1963 it captured the imagination, pride, and hope of the American people. Somewhat forgotten today is the fame the astronauts achieved as national heroes. Photographing America’s First Astronauts: Project Mercury Through the Lens of Bill Taub by J.L. Pickering and John Bisney, with a foreword by Eugene Kranz, visually conveys the excitement, newness, and achievements of this remarkable national effort like no other book previously published.

About the Book

Featuring more than 600 photos, Photographing America’s First Astronauts: Project Mercury Through the Lens of Bill Taub is the most complete photographic account of Project Mercury ever published. Previous Project Mercury books largely have relied on the relatively limited number of photos released by NASA. This book, however, showcases hundreds of never-before-seen images of America’s first manned space program by NASA’s first staff photographer, Bill Taub. Taub went everywhere with the Mercury astronauts, capturing their daily activities from 1959 to 1963. As a result, his photos provide a unique and intimate behind-the-scenes look at the people and operations of Project Mercury in real time.

Drawing on Taub’s recently discovered archive of thousands of black-and-white and color prints, slides, and transparencies, this is the first book to comprehensively visually document Project Mercury. No previous book has devoted as many images to each of the Mercury Seven astronauts and their pioneering spaceflights. Other chapters cover astronaut selection and training, NASA management, and facilities at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Each image is accompanied by a detailed caption. The foreword is by legendary NASA Flight Director Eugene Kranz.

About the Authors

Photo historian and author J. L. Pickering has conducted photo research into the US manned space program for nearly fifty years—acquiring, organizing, and restoring more than 250,000 prints, slides, transparencies, and digital files, the largest such private archive. His sources include government archives, NASA retirees, news photographers, private collectors, and auction houses. One of the world’s leading manned space photography experts, he is regularly contacted by authors, retired astronauts, and even NASA for photo assistance.

Journalist John Bisney is a retired national news correspondent who covered the US space program for more than thirty years for CNN Radio, RKO Radio, the Discovery Science Channel, and SiriusXM. He covered more than sixty-five space shuttle launches, including the Challenger and Columbia disasters. With Pickering, he has coauthored five space photography history books.

Eugene Kranz was NASA’s second chief flight director, serving during the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, including the first lunar landing mission, Apollo 11. He also directed the successful efforts by Mission Control to save the crew of Apollo 13. Kranz is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and his role as a flight controller during Mercury is illustrated in this book.

Read the Book

You can receive a 30% discount on Photographing America’s First Astronauts: Project Mercury Through the Lens of Bill Taub and any other Purdue University Press book by ordering directly from our website and using the code PURDUE30 at checkout. Our books are also available through your favorite hometown bookstore, preferred online retailer, or your local library.

Note for Media and Book Reviewers

A digital review copy of this book is available via Edelweiss for librarians, book review bloggers, and journalists. Additionally, requests for interviews of Pickering or Bisney and other questions about this book may be directed to sales and marketing manager Bryan Shaffer.

About Purdue University Press

Founded in 1960, Purdue University Press is dedicated to the dissemination of scholarly and professional information. We publish books in several key subject areas, including Purdue and Indiana history, aeronautics/astronautics, the human-animal bond, Central European studies, Jewish studies, and other select disciplines.

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