February 20, 1962 – Friendship 7 launches into space, Mercury-Atlas 6
American astronaut John Glenn, Jr., was born on July 18, 1921 in Cambridge, Ohio. [Wikipedia] During his service in the Marines he was a fighter pilot. He was also an ordained Presbyterian elder, corporate executive, and politician. He was the third American to fly in space and the first American to orbit the Earth, aboard Friendship 7 in 1962.
After retiring from NASA, he served as a United States Senator (D-Ohio) from 1974 to 1999. He received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978. He became the oldest person to fly in space when, at the age of 77 in 1998, he flew aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-95).
“In April 1959, Glenn was assigned to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as one of the original group of Mercury astronauts for the Mercury Project. During this time, he remained an officer in the Marine Corps. He piloted the first American manned orbital mission aboard Friendship 7 on February 20, 1962, on the “Mercury Atlas 6″ mission, lasting 4 hours, 55 minutes, and 23 seconds. During the mission there was concern that his heat shield had failed and that his craft would burn up on re-entry but he landed safely. Glenn was celebrated as a national hero, and received a ticker-tape parade reminiscent of Lindbergh.”
“When we were flying John Glenn, we did not know if we were going to have the third bad rocket, or the fourth good one! It was 60/40, if you look at the odds. Unheard of – in American society at least.”
– Gene Krantz, then assistant flight director for NASA, quoted in Into that Silent Sea (p. 139).
Heritage Auction auctioned off a signed poster of the Mercury program astronauts on September 19, 2007 for $15,535.00.