On July 29, 1958, less than one year after the launch of Sputnik 1, President Eisenhower signed the act to create the NASA, which began its operations two months later. The U.S. had been experimenting with rockets since the mid-1940s under the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). NASA absorbed the nearly 8,000 employees and $100 million annual budget of NACA as well as its research labs and test facilities.
The U.S. Air Force had created the Man in Space Soonest program to develop manned spacecraft designs. When NASA was started in 1958, the program was transferred to NASA and renamed Project Mercury.
Publicity Photo of Mercury Seven Astronauts & Missile (1959)
John Glenn wearing his pressure suit in preparation for Mercury Atlas 6 launch (January, 1962).
Project Mercury Main Instrument Panel Diagram (1959)