Fifty years ago today John Glenn orbited the earth and became the first American to do so. He was a member of the first group of astronauts, “Mercury Seven”. John Glenn was selected for this group in part for being known as one of the best test pilots in the country. After three years of training, on February 20, 1962 John Glenn climbed into his Mercury capsule Friendship 7, named after the group of seven astronauts, and orbited the earth three times in four hours and 56 minutes reaching speeds of more than 17,000 miles per hour. At the end of his successful mission, he splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean, 800 miles southeast of Bermuda.
Space exploration back then was an amazing thing and not something taken for granted. Everyone knew the names of those first astronauts. I probably even watched the launch on a big black and white TV at school. I’ve grown up with the space program and have always been fascinated with it. My mother would always say she felt bad for Alan Shepard, who was the first American to go up in space but did not orbit the earth, so it was John Glenn who got more of the glory. So many inventions and things we use and take for granted in our lives came from these space missions.
Here is a newsreel video of the event. The sinister music is a bit alarming but it is amazing to watch this old video! Enjoy!