LIFE, 1 August 1960, pg. 37

This very famous photograph of the astronauts wearing their new Mercury silver pressure spacesuits was made at Langley Air Force Base by long-time Life photographer Ralph Morse, a man who spent so much time with the Mercury Seven (and with the Gemini and Apollo crews as well) that John Glenn himself fondly dubbed him “the eighth astronaut.”

Although the agency viewed Project Mercury’s purpose as an experiment to determine whether humans could survive space travel, the original seven astronauts immediately became national heroes and were compared by TIME magazine to “Columbus, Magellan, Daniel Boone, and the Wright brothers”.

Read more: The Right Stuff: When America Met the Mercury Astronauts by Ben Cosgrove.