The Russians beat us into orbit, and for the moment only the Russians can ferry American astronauts to the International Space Station. It’s hard to believe that just seven years after the first American was launched into orbit, Americans were walking on the moon. (It would be nice to see someone walk on Mars in my lifetime, but in the meanwhile let’s keep sending the robots.)
Glenn recalled how he and his fellow Mercury astronauts traveled during their training to Cape Canaveral to watch a missile blast off. It was a night launch, and the rocket blew apart over their heads.
“That wasn’t a very good confidence-builder for our first trip to the cape,” Glenn said. Improvements were made, and Glenn said he gained confidence in his Mercury-Atlas rocket, a converted nuclear missile. Otherwise, he said he would not have climbed aboard.
Glenn’s Friendship 7 capsule circled Earth three times on Feb. 20, 1962.