Deke Slayton Autograph Letter Signed – “We Have All Been Chosen To Go Into Space Although Only One Can Go First, Obviously”


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American World War II pilot, aeronautical engineer, test pilot who was selected as one of the original NASA Mercury Seven astronauts, and became NASA’s first Chief of the Astronaut Office.

Two-page autograph letter signed (ALS) “Donald K. Slayton, Capt. USAF”, 8×10.5, “National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Space Task Group, Langley Field, Va.” stationery, no date but circa September 1959-June 1960. Letter to “Helene,” answering several questions, in part:

1. The reason all pilots selected were married with at least one child is that all are over 33 years of age. The average American male of this age has a family and we are average people.

2. The primary reason I am interested in this program is to continue my career as a professional test pilot. This consists of learning all that can be learned about airborne vehicles and insuring they are safe for other people to fly in. This is the profession I am most proficient at and can best serve my country in this capacity.

3. We have all been chosen to go into space although only one can go first, obviously. Eventually space travel will become as common as aircraft flying now is. As to the safety involved in space flying, there is undoubtedly an element of risk involved due to lack of knowledge. If there were no risk and no unknowns, we should have been in space years ago. We are attempting to minimize all known risks, but you couldn’t compare this ride with normal aircraft flight.

In very good to fine condition, with soiling to corners and binder dings to the left edge.

Slayton was originally selected to pilot the second American manned orbital spaceflight, but was grounded in 1962 due to an irregular heart rhythm. He would become the last member of the original Mercury Seven to make it into space, finally accomplishing this goal with the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975—fifteen years after writing this detailed letter.  At age 51, he became the oldest person to fly in space at the time.