With the passing of former astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn on December 8, 2016, the country lost the last of the seven men who constituted the original astronaut team for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Glenn, Alan Shepherd, Virgil Grissom, Gordon Cooper, Scott Carpenter, Walter Schirra, and Donald Slayton were chosen to pilot the first U.S. manned space program, Project Mercury, in 1958, with all but Slayton taking turns in the one-person capsules between 1961 and 1963 (Slayton would later pilot a docking module for the Apollo-Soyuz Project in 1975).
A Marine fighter pilot during World War II and the Korean War, Glenn was selected for the Mercury program in 1959 and would be the third of the seven original astronauts to fly, following Shepherd’s and Grissom’s suborbital flights. Officially known as Mercury-Atlas (MA) 6, the capsule was nicknamed “Friendship 7” by Glenn. The flight took place February 20, 1962, and lasted just over 4 hours and 55 minutes, with Glenn becoming the first American to orbit the Earth, circling the planet three times.
A film titled “Friendship 7” was produced by General Dynamics Corporation in 1962 for NASA detailing Glenn’s flight, including his pre-flight preparations and actual footage from within the capsule during the flight. It also includes scenes showing NASA tracking stations from around the world.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Friendship 7 Mission: A Major Achievement and a Sign of More to Come. (https://history.nasa.gov/friendship7/)
National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Profile of John Glenn. (https://www.nasa.gov/content/profile-of-john-glenn)
National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Friendship 7. (https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_2009.html)
National Aeronautics and Space Administration. 40th Anniversary of the Mercury 7: Donald K “Deke” Slayton. (https://history.nasa.gov/40thmerc7/slayton.htm)