On this day in history, 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth.
To be considered for the mission Glenn had to meet a series of requirements, including a bachelor’s degree in engineering. Other requirements included age (under 40), height (under 5’11”), physical shape, and accumulated hours of flying time (at least 1,500 hours).
Glenn was chosen from a pool of 508 candidates as part of the newly formed NASA Manned Space Program.
According to NASA, “In April of 1959, John Glenn was selected as a member of the first group of astronauts, the ‘Mercury Seven.’ He was joined by Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton.”
After training for three years, Glenn circled the globe three times in four hours and 56 minutes aboard the Mercury capsule friendship 7. He reached speeds of more than 17,000 miles per hour, splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean 800 miles southeast of Bermuda.
Yet, the flight didn’t go exactly as planned, as a yaw attitude jet clogged near the end of his first orbit which forced Glenn to fly manually using the electrical fly-by-wire system.
After returning safely home, Glenn instantly became a hero. He was awarded the Space Congressional Medal of Honor by President John Kennedy, and a ticker tape parade was held for him in New York City.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense