No one could have predicted the public fascination with astronauts from the first unveiling of the Mercury Seven in 1959 through Project Apollo until the present. The astronaut as celebrity and what that has meant in American life never dawned on anyone beforehand. To the surprise and ultimately consternation of some NASA leaders, they immediately became national heroes and the leading symbols of the fledgling space program.1 Even so, both NASA and the press contrived to present the astronauts as embodiments of the leading virtues of American culture and this has continued from the 1950s to the new millennium. Both NASA officials and the astronauts themselves carefully molded and controlled their public images every bit as successfully as those of movie idols or rock music stars.2
Launius, Roger D.
"Heroes in a Vacuum: The Apollo Astronaut as Cultural Icon,"
Florida Historical Quarterly: Vol. 87:
2, Article 6.
Available at: https://stars.library.ucf.edu/fhq/vol87/iss2/6