John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the earth

In 1959, Marine fighter pilot John Glenn (July 18, 1921-) was picked as one of the original seven astronauts for NASA’s Project Mercury program. On February 20, 1960, Glenn became the fifth person in space (in April, 1961 Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gargarin became the first man in space and the first to orbit the Earth), the third American in space and the first American to orbit the Earth. His space capsule Friendship 7 orbited the Earth three times in a flight that lasted almost 5 hours. As a result of his feat Glenn became a national hero, receiving a ticker tape parade in New York City and receiving the NASA service medal from Pres. Kennedy. Glenn left NASA six weeks after the Kennedy assassination to run for office, eventually serving four terms as senator from his home state Ohio. In Oct. 1998, at the age of 77, Glenn participated in a second space flight aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery.

Space Triumph! Glenn Flight Thrills World, 1962

Mercury Information from NASA including hour long documentary

Even more information can be found at the:

Official NASA Mercury Web-Site

Full Digital issues of Life Magazine,

A Man Marked to do Great Things, February 2, 1962

Back from Space, March 2, 1962

John Glenn recalls first orbit flight

Read John Glenn: A Memoir




Books about the early years of NASA

America in Space: NASA’s First Fifty Years

Epic Rivalry: The Inside Story of the Soviet and American Space Race

Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond

Friendship 7: The First Flight of John Glenn: The NASA Mission Reports

John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon

Red Moon Rising: Sputnik and the Hidden Rivalries that Ignited the Space Age


A Ball, a Dog, and a Monkey: 1957— The Space Race Begins [AUDIOBOOK CD]


DVDs about NASA & Space Exploration

Essential space collection

Man on the Moon: With Walter Cronkite

NASA: 50 Years of Space Exploration

NASA, The Ultimate Collection: To the Moon and Beyond

When we left Earth: The NASA Missions