Created By The Mercury 7 Astronauts
More than 100 astronauts are helping the United States retain its world leadership in science and technology by providing scholarships for college students who exhibit motivation, imagination, and exceptional performance in the science or engineering field of their major.
The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation was established originally in 1984 as the Mercury Seven Foundation by the six surviving members of America’s original Mercury Seven astronauts, Mrs. Betty Grissom (widow of the seventh, Virgil “Gus” Grissom), William Douglas, M.D. (the Project Mercury flight surgeon), and Henri Landwirth, an Orlando businessman and friend of the astronauts. The founding astronauts were Malcolm Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper Jr., John H. Glenn Jr., Walter M. Schirra, Alan B. Shepard Jr., and Donald K. (Deke) Slayton. Currently, Apollo astronaut Charlie Duke is Chairman of the foundation’s Board of Directors and shuttle astronaut Dan Brandenstein serves as Vice Chairman.
The original Mercury Seven Foundation began on a shoestring budget, and the first seven scholarships, at $1,000 each, were awarded in 1986. As more money was raised the amount and number of scholarships increased gradually. The foundation now awards 28 scholarships annually, each worth $10,000, for a total of $280,000. To date, the foundation has awarded nearly $3.5 million in scholarships to deserving students nationwide.
Scholarship money is raised through astronaut appearances, fund-raising events, corporate and individual donations, and astronaut autographs. In 1995, with the realization that the five remaining Mercury astronauts would not be able to raise scholarship funds forever, the Board of Directors voted to broaden the membership and to change the name to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. Astronauts from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, and Space Shuttle programs have now joined in this worthwhile endeavor.
The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation.