Monday, February 20, 2012

Friendship 7's Flight 50 Years Ago

As a child, I remembered asking my parents to go outside into the backyard to see if I could look up in the sky to see the Mercury capsule that was supposely flying over Texas at the time.

I would have been 2-3 years old when that happened and this memory just came up while thinking about the true meaning of this post... 50 years ago, one John Glenn Jr. in his capsule, the Friendship 7; soared into history.

Glenn's flight also marked the first time that NASA used the Atlas rocket to launch a manned Mercury capsule.

Only three orbits were made.  A decision was made to end the flight sooner rather than later due to the heat shield issue.  Glenn survived the successful re-entry by keeping the thruster pack in place - thus hold the heat shield in place.  He became a hero at that point and there was no turning back.  Politics kept him on the ground after that flight.

Fifty years is a long time.  We still have the USAF B-52s and C-130s still flying (aircraft can always be upgraded).  As for space, the Atlas has grown into the Atlas V and it too (in a sense, is still flying).

United Launch Alliance is prepping the Atlas V to be able to take three different types of spacecraft up to the International Space Station. Boeing has the CST-100 spacecraft that they are building. Then there is Sierra Nevada Corp's Dream Chaser mini-shuttle that can be stuck on top of a Atlas V.

But, getting back to John Glenn now.  He denies it, but the movie and book title "The Right Stuff" is firmly attached to his name for the rest of eternity.

Quoting the NSS blog post:  “A true American hero, Glenn ushered in American orbital spaceflight 50 years ago and brought the U.S. into the space age in earnest,” said NSS Executive Director Paul E. Damphousse.  “His service to this nation reminds us of the bravery, determination, and excitement needed to achieve these ambitious goals – we hope his example will serve to further motivate our progress in space.” end quote.

Let's also not forget that SENATOR John Glenn also has the record for being the oldest person (so far) to have travel in space.  He flew on STS-95 (shuttle Discovery) at the ripe old age of 77 for a nine-day mission.

John Glenn Jr. is a member of the NSS Board of Governors and NSS Executive Director Paul E. Damphousse added this quote:  “We expect to build upon his legacy as we advance our goals in space over the next 50 years.”  end quote.

1."Friendship 7’s legacy is safe with Commercial Crew" by Space Fontier Foundation.  February 20, 2012. ( ).
2. NSS Blog. "NSS Salutes John Glenn on 50th Anniversary of Friendship 7 Space Flight" February 20, 2012. (
3. image from nasa files of Atlas/Frendship 7 launch. (

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