Today, February 20th, is the 50th anniversary of John Glenn's historic Friendship 7 Mercury flight. I remember watching his liftoff, the 3rd Mercury Program manned launch, as he was the first astronaut to ride the not so reliable Atlas booster. He was the first American to orbit the Earth. The Russians had already done it.
His flight orbited the Earth three times and was nearly flawless. His orbital flight was cut short due to a sensor alarm that indicated his heat shield had deployed while he was in orbit. The decision was made for Glenn to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere leaving the retro-fire pack (containing the 3 solid rocket motors that fired to slow his spacecraft down) attached to the heat shield. As history shows, he was successful in his descent but it was a harrowing time watching Walter Cronkite and praying to hear that John Glenn had made it back.
One of America's true heroes - Marine Corps fighter ace, retired Colonel, long time Senator, a wonderful human being - John Glenn also holds the record as the oldest human to fly in space. He flew aboard Space Shuttle Discovery in 1998 at the age of 77.
Someday I hope we see American astronauts once again heading towards space and beyond low Earth orbit riding a towering pillar of flame like see you below.
Thank you John Glenn for all you have done for the country and humanity. Read More ABout It: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/history/features/Glenn-50thKSC.html
Sky Guy in VA