The proposal was rejected as a stunt. Instead the first American went into space aboard a NASA 'civilian' Redstone in May 1961 - two years, $360 million, and a month later than Yuri Gagarin.
In February 1958, building on the success of his Redstone putting America's first satellite into space, Wernher von Braun proposed Project Adam. This modest $12 million project promised to have an American in space by the end of 1959, a year sooner than the Air Force's $100 million MISS (Man-In-Space-Soonest). Originally dubbed "Man Very High", the idea was to use an Army Ballistic Missile Agency Redstone rocket to boost a USAF Man High balloon gondola with a human 'test subject' on a suborbital trajectory. . The manned capsule would be shot from Cape Canaveral to an altitude of 240 km, inflict six minutes of weightlessness on the 'test subject', and then splash down 250 km downrange. The US Navy would provide recovery services. Von Braun invited Man High's Simons and Kittinger to Huntsville to get the program moving, but by April 1958 interservice rivalry killed the project in the womb. The Air Force saw it as a threat to MISS. So Project Adam was submitted to ARPA on 13 May 1958 by the Secretary of the Army as an Army-only proposal, with US Navy recovery support. Immediate funding of only $4.75 million would get the project going.
NACA also disparaged the Army proposal. Hugh Dryden of NACA testified to Congress that "tossing a man up in the air and letting him come back . . . is about the same technical value as the circus stunt of shooting a young lady from a cannon. . . ." On 11 July 1958 Roy W Johnson, head of the Advanced Research Project Agency, told the Army that Project Adam was not considered a practical proposal for manned space flight. The Army fought back, getting the Central Intelligence Agency interested in Adam as a potential "national political psychological demonstration" desperately needed in the space race. Deputy Secretary of Defense Donald A Quarles replied that it would nevertheless have to await "further study", given the creation of NASA and the uncertainty as to who would undertake manned spaceflight.
Once NASA was created from NACA and assigned the manned space mission, Dryden suddenly did not find the plan a "circus stunt". Suborbital test of a manned capsule aboard a Redstone was made an integral part of Project Mercury. Unfortunately, under NASA's management, it didn't happen until April 1961 - after the Soviet Union had put the first man into space.
As briefed by von Braun, the objective of Project Adam was to carry a manned, instrumented spacecraft to a range of approximately 240 km; to perform psycho-physiological experiments during the acceleration phase and the subsequent 6 minutes of weightlessness; and to effect a safe re-entry and recovery of the manned spacecraft from the sea. Already feasible through existing hardware and recovery techniques, it would supply fundamental knowledge on human behavior during transportation by rocket, cabin design criteria, recovery techniques for manned re-entry vehicles, emergency escape procedures, and data transmission techniques. In addition, as a pioneering achievement, it would enhance the technological prestige of the United States. Participating agencies of the Army-sponsored effort would be the U.S. Army Ballistic Missile Agency, the U.S. Army Medical Service, USN Task Force for Recovery Operations, and selected contractors.
The carrier vehicle would consist of a modified Redstone and an instrument compartment as used in satellite and re-entry firings. The human passenger would travel in a reclining position relative to the missile thrust axis so as to keep acceleration effects at a minimum. The biomedical aspects would include measurement of human reactions as follows: Electrocardiogram, blood pressure, respiratory rate and depth, galvanic skin resistance, two body temperatures, and motion picture coverage of the passenger. Measurements of the spacecraft environment would include cabin pressure, oxygen partial pressure, carbon dioxide partial pressure, cabin air temperature, spacecraft skin temperature, humidity, cosmic radiation, gravitational force (for weightlessness determination), noise, and vibration.
The proposal urged that Project Adam be approved as the next significant step toward the development of a U.S. capability for the transportation of troops by ballistic missiles.