Wanted: Human being willing to be strapped into highly combustible spaceship filled with thousands of gallons of rocket fuel. Must be willing to commute into space. Return trip not guaranteed. All interested parties please send resume to NASA, attention: Mercury Project.
The National Archives recently posted the original job description for an astronaut on NASA's Mercury mission. It's even more intimidating than our made-up version.
In a 1959 letter written to Lt. Paul B. Bennett Jr. from Clotaire Wood, technical assistant to the deputy administrator, Wood details the various job responsibilities required of a Mercury astronaut .
Duties: Participates in indoctrination, developmental research, and pre-flight training programs under conditions simulating flight profiles of the type expected to be encountered with Project Mercury. Operates and/or observes fixed-base and moving-base simulator tests, serves as subject-under-test, and assists in the analysis of date for the evaluation and development of various boosters and of communication, telemetry, display, vehicle-control, environmental-control and other systems involved in launch, atmospheric escape, orbital flight, reentry, landing and recovery. Participates in specialized training exercises such as centrifuge programs to build up tolerances to the motions and forces associated with launch, flight without gravity, and atmospheric reentry, and to develop proficiency and confidence for vehicle operation under such conditions.
Sounds great! Where do we sign?
For the record, Alan Shepard was the first American in space. His suborbital flight, aboard the Freedom 7, took place on May 5, 1961, and lasted about 15 and a half minutes.