NASA Astronaut John Glenn Mercury-Atlas 6 Earth Space Orbit
NASA astronaut John Glenn officially became the first American to orbit Earth on February 20, 1962 during the Mercury-Atlas (MA) 6 mission. The Friendship 7 spacecraft orbited Earth approximately three times, eventually splashing down near the Turks and Caicos Islands 4-hours, 55 minutes and 23-seconds after liftoff. For those wondering, NASA did send Alan Shepard into space during May 1961, but his flight was only a suborbital lob. Read more to see the launch in full HD and for additional information.

During the start of Glenn’s second orbit, NASA controllers noticed a signal that indicated that his spacecraft’s landing bag had already deployed, which meant that the heat shield required for a safe reentry was no longer in place. They realized that this may have been just an erroneous signal, but they still devised a plan to keep the retrorocket pack on after retrofire to have the straps keep the heat shield secured. Fortunately, all went as planned and Friendship 7 splashed down near Grand Turk Island at 2:43pm EST.

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Mercury also set the stage for Projects Gemini and Apollo during the 1960s and all later U.S. human spaceflight activities. Thus, the MA-6 mission of Friendship 7 was both a capstone event and the beginning of many more achievements in human spaceflight for NASA,” said the agency.


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