Home Science Space First on Feb. 20, 1962: John Glenn orbits Earth

The USS Noa picked up Glenn and his capsule about seven minutes after he splashed down in the water.

Glenn became the third human to orbit the Earth (and the fourth in space). The Soviet Union had earlier, on April 12, 1961, placed one of their Soviet cosmonauts, Yuri Gagarin in orbit within his Vostok 1 (the first human in space).

Later, on August 6, 1961, the Soviets placed the second man in orbit (and the fifth in space), Gherman Titov, on August 6, 1961, onboard Vostok 2.

NASA astronaut Alan Shepard was the first American to fly in space (and the second human), when he reached outer space on May 5, 1961, onboard Friendship 7. He did not orbit the Earth, but made a suborbital trip to space.

Virgil “Gus” Grissom became the second American to fly in space, making his suborbital trip on July 21, 1961, onboard Liberty Bell 7.

A history of the United States’ first manned space program, Project Mercury, is found at the NASA History Division’s website “This New Ocean: A History of Project Mercury.”

SpaceTodayOnline contains many articles on NASA astronaut John Glenn, as does HistoryNet.com .

Official NASA transcripts of John Glenn during his Mercury-Atlas 6 mission is found at the NASA website “Mercury Archives.”


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William Atkins

William Atkins completed educational degrees in science (bachelor’s in physics and mathematics) from Illinois State University (Normal, United States) and business (master’s in entrepreneurship and bachelor’s in industrial relations) from Western Illinois University