Babies named for Mercury astronauts

Astronaut Alan Shepard (1923-1998)
Alan Shepard

NASA’s Mercury program (1959-1963) was the nation’s first human spaceflight program.

Six of the Mercury flights were manned — each by a single astronaut. The six astronauts, in order, were Alan Shepard, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Walter Schirra, and Gordon Cooper.

So far I’ve been able to track down namesakes for two of these men:

Alan Shepard

The first American (and second human) in space was Alan Shepard. He piloted a sub-16-minute suborbital flight aboard the Freedom 7 on May 5, 1961. (Yuri Gagarin‘s flight on April 12 had been an orbital flight lasting 108 minutes.)

At 11:42 am, “an hour and eight minutes after Shephard’s [sic] rocket took off,” a baby boy was born to Mr. and Mrs. William J. Mann of Middletown, New York. The boy was named Alan Shepard Mann.

“I had thought of the name myself,” said Mr. Mann. “Then so many friends called and suggested it that we decided to name the baby Alan Shepard. My wife had already picked out a name, Ralph Luppon, but she agreed too that under the circumstances it was the only thing to do.”

John Glenn

The first American to orbit the Earth and the third American (and fifth human) in space was John Glenn. He traveled around the Earth three times aboard the Friendship 7 during a nearly 5-hour flight on February 20, 1962.

Here are just a few of the babies born on Feb. 20 and named in honor of John Glenn:

  • John Glenn Donato, baby boy, born to Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Donato of Burbank, California.
  • John Glenn Guntle, baby boy, born at 2:42 p.m., “just one minute before astronaut John H. Glenn Jr. landed Tuesday in the Atlantic Ocean after his third orbit of the earth,” to Mr. and Mrs. Larry Guntle of Dowagiac, Michigan.
  • John Glenn Fortner, baby boy, born to Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Fortner of Spartanburg, South Carolina.
  • Glenn John Ashley Mertz, baby boy, born “as astronaut John H. Glenn Jr. re-entered the atmosphere” to Mr. and Mrs. Louis Ashley Mertz of Freeport, New York.
  • Jonna Glyn Morse, baby girl, born at 10:50 a.m., “while Col. Glenn was still in orbit,” to Mr. and Mrs. Sidney L. Morse of Los Angeles, California.
  • Late addition: Glenn Orbit Reeves, baby boy, born in Texas.

We can see the influence of John Glenn’s flight in the U.S. baby name data, in fact.

For more names like these, check out yesterday’s post on baby names inspired by astronauts in the Apollo program.


  • About Project Mercury – NASA
  • “Astronaut’s Name Given New Babies.” Los Angeles Times 25 Feb. 1962: GB2.
  • “It Took Week for Famous Name to Stick.” Spartanburg Herald 28 Feb. 1962: 1.
  • “Middletown Infant May Be First Namesake of Spaceman.” Evening News [Newburgh, NY] 6 May 1961: 1.
  • “Name Fame.” Spokane Daily Chronicle 23 Feb. 1962: 1.
  • “Tots Named for Glenn.” Meriden Record 21 Feb. 1962: 8.

4 thoughts on “Babies named for Mercury astronauts

  1. I am the mother of Alan Shepard Mann born May 5, 1961. He received a letter from Alan Shepard and signed portrait when he was 9 years old. We are proud of them both.

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