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John Glenn
The First American To Orbit The Earth

On February 20, 1962, John Glenn became the first American astronaut to orbit the earth. Glenn was catapulted into space on board Friendship 7, a Mercury capsule placed atop an Atlas rocket. The trip lasted 4 hours and 55 minutes and circled the earth 3 times at 17,000 miles per hour.

At the time of his flight, Glenn was only the fifth human being to travel into space and the third American. His accomplishments as an astronaut earned him a place in the history books and made him a national hero.


In April of 1959, John Glenn, along with six other candidates, Donald Slayton, Alan Shepard, Scott Carpenter, Virgil Grissom, Gordon Cooper, and Walter M. Schirra, were chosen as the "Mercury Seven" astronauts.

In May of 1961, the Soviet Union stunned the world by sending cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin into space and returned him home safely. In a technological sense, this was an embarrassment to the United States because it put the Soviet Union in a position of superiority in the field of rocket science.

To counter the Soviet Union's early dominance in the the space race, at the urging of President John F. Kennedy, the United States embarked on a mission to surpass the Soviet Union and regain technological superiority by putting it's own astronauts into space.

Kennedy announced that the United States would not only put astronauts into space but would also send a manned mission to the moon by the end of the decade. By making this declaration, the space race began in earnest and the United States met it's goals by putting men in space and landing them on the moon.

For his historic flight, Glenn was given a ticker tape parade in New York City, a Congressional Space Medal of Honor, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He was elected to the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1990.

After he retired from the Marine Corps and NASA, Glenn went into politics and won election to the U. S. Senate as a representative from Ohio. He served in the Senate from 1974 until he retired from politics in 1999.

In 1998 Glenn flew into space again aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery becoming the only person to participate in both the Mercury program and the Space Shuttle program. He is also the oldest person, at age 77, to go into space.

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