Project Mercury was the first human spaceflight program in the United States, and as such has the distinction of sending the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth: Alan Shepard. The program’s inception in 1958 led to the first unmanned launch in 1959 and the first manned launch in 1961. The program ended in 1963, succeeded by Project Gemini. There were 20 unmanned test missions, six manned missions, seven astronauts, and two chimpanzees (Ham and Enos were their names) who preceded the astronauts into space. The primary objectives of Project Mercury were to achieve manned Earth orbit, find out how astronauts can operate in space, and to safely recover both astronauts and spacecraft after flight.