- In this historic capsule, John H. Glenn Jr. became the first American to orbit the Earth. Glenn's flight was the third manned mission of Project Mercury, following two suborbital flights by astronauts in 1961. Glenn's three-orbit mission on February 20, 1962, was a sterling success, as he overcame problems with the automatic control system that would have ended an unmanned flight. But reentry was tense, as a faulty telemetry signal from the spacecraft indicated that the heat shield might be loose. Mission Control instructed Glenn not to jettison the retrorocket package after firing in order to better hold the heat shield in place. Glenn reentered successfully and splashed down in the Atlantic 4 hours, 55 minutes and 23 seconds after launch.
- NASA transferred Friendship 7 to the Smithsonian Institution in 1963, which has exhibited it in buildings on the National Mall ever since.
- Alternate Name
- Mercury Friendship 7
- Key Accomplishment(s)
- Carried First American into Orbit
- Impact or Innovation
- By orbiting the Earth, John Glenn showed that the United States could compete with the Soviet Union in the Cold War space race.
- Brief Description
- On February 20, 1962, NASA astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth in this spacecraft which he named Friendship 7. Glenn returned to a hero's welcome, having completed three orbits and matching the Soviet Union's achievements.
- Data Source
- National Air and Space Museum
- John H. Glenn, Jr.
- McDonnell Aircraft Corp.
- Credit Line
- Transferred from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
- Skin & Structure: Titanium
- Heat shield: Phenolic resin, fiberglass
- Shingles: Nickel-steel alloy; beryllium shingles removed
- Overall: 190.5 × 226.1cm, 875.4kg (6 ft. 3 in. × 7 ft. 5 in., 1930lb.)
This image is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Open Access page.
International media Interoperability Framework
IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and media viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. Visit the IIIF page to learn more.