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The right stuff: inside the race to be the first American in space

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Mercury 7
Mercury 7

Private companies trying to shuttle tourists into space. Audacious plans to send civilians on a one-way mission to Mars. Astronauts recording David Bowie cover songs from 230 miles above the Earth. Nope, space travel isn't what it used to be.

More than 50 years ago, a select cadre of American test pilots underwent rigorous NASA testing, each of them making a bid to become the first US astronaut in space. The men, known as "The Mercury Seven," were chosen specifically because of their professional background: they had security clearance, familiarity with aircraft, and military experience that offered discipline and an ability to follow orders.

These men may have met that criteria, but plenty more awaited them as they auditioned to blast off. As DVICE recounts in fascinating detail, each one endured dozens of medical tests, stringent psychiatric evaluations, and even the scrutiny of their fellow candidates: each man was "asked to write on a slip of paper who, other than themselves, they would like to see fly first."