was the first human spaceflight program of the United States. It ran from 1959
through 1963 with the goal of putting a human in orbit around the Earth. The
Mercury-Atlas 6 flight on February 20, 1962, was the first Mercury flight to
achieve this goal. Early planning and research was carried out by the
National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, and the program was officially
conducted by the newly created NASA. The name comes from Mercury, a Roman
mythological god who is often seen as a symbol of speed. Mercury is also the
name of the innermost planet of the solar system, which moves faster than any
other and hence provides an image of speed, although Project Mercury had no
other connection to that planet.
The Mercury program cost approximately $384 million, the equivalent of about
$2.8 billion in 2008 dollars.
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