May 5, 1961, Cape Canavral.
First, the astronauts are sleeping, but once they're awake, Major John Glenn and Comander Alan Shepard are in full competition mode whether running or shaving.
It's T minus five hours, 20 minutes to launch.
They're enjoying a breakfast of filet mignon when Alan reveals to John that they might act like buddies for the camera, but after what John did, they are not friends no matter how good of a pilot he is.
John went behind Alan's back, and he's not about to let it go.
An announcer chats about the launch, which nobody knows for sure is a go or not. And regardless of the raging, impending success of the mission, the US is still second behind Russia.
Crowds are gathered all over the country watching the launch proceedings as Kennedy delivers an address about its importance.
Two years earlier.
Good Golly Miss Molly! Men are chatting in a bar over some beers.
Someone is face planted on their living room floor next to an empty bottle of booze and a blaring television. He picks himself up to shower.
He's one of the potential astronauts, soon walking toward is aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base.
It's Captain Gordo Cooper. He's a drunk?!
At Langley, a young man from Old Forge, Pennsylvania, delivers stacks of information to Bob Gilruth and Chris Kraft, a couple of NASA engineers working against the clock under pressure from Washington.
He's got the list of test pilots, and without much information, Bob begins crossing names off of the list, concerning Old Forge.
Bob wonders why there aren't any Marines on the list and continues scratching off names.
As Bob shares wisdom with Old Forge, Gordo nurses a bloody hand as test pilot, Cal Cunningham falls out of the sky to his death.
John gets a paper for the day, discovering himself on the magazine, Vital.
Old Forge delivers a new list. There's even one Marine on the list -- John Glenn.
John Glenn was on Name That Tune the same day Sputnik went up. He named all the tunes.
John Glenn, though, is 38 years old, something they question and John laments.
John doesn't care about making a space capsule, he want to fly it and make history as the first man in space.
The list makers are on Alan Shepard, wondering if such a reckless pilot should be on the list.
Reckless Alan is wooing a woman in bed while smoking a cigarette and nursing a drink with tales of flying.
It's better than sex. Good God, McDorman is built and very, very hot.
Al is requesting more hours from one of his superiors. He wants to fly, anything will do.
Alan's intelligence makes him very valuable behind a desk, but he's yearning to return to piloting. Apparently, mouthing off got him kicked off that gig.
It's Cal's funeral. Gordo thinks back to his drinking, wondering how this all came to pass.
Gordo has a family, two girls, and he's hoping that he can put in for a transfer. He lies to his superior about how he cut his hand.
The man wonders if he and Cal did everything by the book the day Cal died. Test pilots push things, and sometimes they break, Gordo says. The man hopes that Gordo has not interest in sullying the memory of his friend in the name of the complexity of their job. Stick to the jar of peaches story, seems to be the suggestion.
A courier from Washington has a message for Gordo. It's top secret. Oh, and transfer denied.
Major Glenn gets the same courier message. He reads it aloud, "Top Secret Communication, Eyes Only." Getting invited into the space program as Bill Baker.
Same time, Wally Schirra and a couple of pals arrive at the same bar where Alan is drinking, celebrating their telegrams. Alan has no idea what they're talking about. They think he's joking, but he's deadly serious.
He demands to know the contents of the telegram. Wally thought he'd know because, well, he's him.
All of the pilots got the same secret identity, Gordo learns upon his arrival at Langley.
Better late than never! Alan's coworker delivers his telegram.
Johnny B Good pounds as Bob explains to the pilots their plans. They've essentially removed the core of a nuclear missle and they want to put the pilots in its place.
They aren't afforded the luxury of testing the thing without humans as they struggle to keep up and surpass the Russians.
Alan arrives very late to the meeting.
Their very way of life is at stake, so that's why they need the very best. Oak Forge's name is Mr. Lunney.
Gordo introduces himself around and meets Scott Carpenter. They spy John and Alan making conversation at the bar and marvel of their status as the cream of the crop.
They're both in, very, very in. The competition starts right here, apparently. At least the personal version.
Just after Alan announces he'll be the first man in space, Gordo continues his introductions.
The guys leave John and his seltzer behind.
Deke and Gus are drinking Rye and discussing their favorite things -- fishing and cars.
A woman is chatting with Alan, who introduces himself as Bill just before all of the others introduce themselves as Bill, too.
Alan finds Carol again, making a pass at her before escorting her to her room, hand placed firmly on her ass.
John, meanwhile, is on his way to his own room and eyes Alan dubiously.
Gordo arrives home to a wall marking his kids' height. Their rooms are empty.
Bob and Chris are worried nobody will sign on when Lunney swings by -- only two declined. They've got three days to narrow the list from 108 to 32.
John is just out of bed when he gets a call. He discusses what's happening with his wife, Annie, who he's known since they were kids. She wonders if he's had enough adventure as he approaches 40, and he says this is his turn to be first at something.
Gordo gets the Project Mercury call. They need to schedule interviews with his wife and family, too, which makes him hesitate.
Gordo knocks on Trudy's door. He wants her to come home, but she can't. She's trying to live her life. He says that if they find out he's separated, he'll wash out. They only want men with stable families. He hopes they can start over, but she just did. Think about what it could mean for the girls, he says. Please.
The men are put to the test on bikes and in whirling spinning gizmos and psychological films, among other things.
A neat test? They have 15 minutes to answer the following question: Who am I?
Alan Shepard's answer? I am a man who values my privacy.
Whoa. He's married. I should have known that, but his poor wife. Alan gets angry at being dissected, poked, and prodded when his piloting skills should be enough. The man questioning him says the way he puffs his chest will eventually catch up with him.
Bob and Chris think they're all terrific and they're all terrible. They decide to start with the easy ones. John gets the first call as he gathers his family for church.
Alan is next, listing to the call with his wife.
Scott Carpenter gets the next call, then Gus, Wally, Deke, and Gordo, many of whom are known by their first names.
They are the nation's Mercury astronatuts.