Fifty years ago John Glenn became the fifth human being launched into space and the first American to orbit the earth when he climbed into Friendship 7 and rocketed into space from Cape Canaveral’s Launch Complex 14 on this date in 1962.
His historic flight took him four hours and 56 minutes to orbit the Earth three times before splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean.
The successful manned orbital mission paved the way for NASA to proceed with the remaining three Mercury orbital flight missions and put the United States on the path toward fulfilling President Kennedy’s goal of landing a man on the moon before the end of the decade.
After retiring from NASA Glenn entered the political arena and served as the Democratic US senator for Ohio from 1974-1999.
Glenn holds another American spaceflight distinction as the oldest person to fly in space. At age 77 he was part of the STS-95 mission that flew aboard the shuttle Discovery from October 29-November 7, 1998.
But the road to the successful Apollo 11 mission started with John Glenn’s mission that launched fifty years ago today.