… was the first American to orbit the earth — 53 years ago today. It was a very big deal at the time.
Cape Canaveral, Fla., Feb. 20 — John H. Glenn Jr. orbited three times around the earth today and landed safely to become the first American to make such a flight.
The 40-year-old Marine Corps lieutenant colonel traveled about 81,000 miles in 4 hours 56 minutes before splashing into the Atlantic at 2:43 P.M. Eastern Standard Time.
He had been launched from here at 9:47 A. M.
The astronaut’s safe return was no less a relief than a thrill to the Project Mercury team, because there had been real concern that the Friendship 7 capsule might disintegrate as it rammed back into the atmosphere.
There had also been a serious question whether Colonel Glenn could complete three orbits as planned. But despite persistent control problems, he managed to complete the entire flight plan.