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Friendship 7

Joseph Miller | Feb. 20, 2020

On this day, Feb. 20th, 58 years ago, John Hershel Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. We thought the best way to mark this historic day is to share a photo shot at one of our rocket camps!

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Glenn was among the seven men chosen by NASA in 1959 to become America’s first astronauts. He was also a very skilled pilot; he flew nearly 150 combat missions during WW II and the Korean War. And in 1957, he made the first nonstop supersonic flight EVER across the United States. The route ran from Los Angeles to New York and took just 3 hours and 23 minutes!

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At exactly 9:47 a.m. on February 20, 1962, Glenn lifted off from the launch pad at Cape Canaveral aboard the Friendship 7 spacecraft. An estimated 100,000 spectators watched on the ground and millions saw the television broadcast.

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The capsule entered into orbit around Earth at a speed of about 17,500 miles per hour. As his tiny capsule settled into orbit, Glenn radioed back, “Capsule is turning around. Oh, that view is tremendous.”

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On Glenn’s third and final orbit of Earth, the crew learned that the base of the rocket was probably loose. Because it was traveling at a very high speed, the capsule would be incinerated if the shield failed to absorb and dissipate reentry temperatures. So, they decided to leave the retrorockets in place, which are normally jettisoned before reentry.

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Unfortunately, the straps holding the retrorockets failed during Glenn’s fiery descent. A shroud of ions caused by the tremendous friction enveloped the spacecraft. After four minutes of radio silence, Glenn’s voice came through the radio as the Friendship 7 splashed in the Atlantic Ocean.

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As he stepped onto the deck of the USS destroyer Noa, his firsts words were, “It was hot in there.”

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Glenn was hailed as a national hero. On February 23, President Kennedy visited him at Cape Canaveral.

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Later in life, Glenn served as a payload specialist for the space shuttle Discovery. And on October 29, 1998, the 77-year-old Glenn became the oldest human ever to travel to space!

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If you haven’t built a model rocket with your children or students, you’re definitely missing out on a fantastic learning experience. It may seem rather intimidating, but with patience it’s very doable. Try it and inspire the next bold astronaut!

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Joseph M. // CWS, 2020.

Source: “John Glenn becomes first American to orbit Earth.” This Day in History. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/an-american-orbits-earth

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