He was more than brave and intelligent
On February 2, 1959, 35 American test pilots arrived at the Pentagon. Each of them had a college degree, and each was active-duty military; each had received vague orders telling him to dress like a civilian and come to Washington for a briefing.
In a Pentagon conference room, two NASA engineers told the pilots that NASA was going to send men to space and needed volunteers. It would be a hazardous undertaking. So hazardous, the pilots were told, that if they didn’t choose to volunteer, no record of the briefing would appear in their files; it wouldn’t be held against them in any way.