This Day in History
John Glenn and Friendship 7

John Glenn in Space
February 20, 1962

As long as men have gazed at the stars, they have dreamed of traveling to them, and to the uttermost reaches of space. Only in our own day has the dream become a reality. The history of effective space exploration depended on the rigorous study of rocket technology which flourished during World War II. By 1945, the Germans had reached a high level of theoretical, and even practical, development in this area. With victory, the United States and the Soviet Union fell heir to German technical information and to their scientists as well. By the mid-fifties, research made launching an artificial earth satellite feasible. Both the United States and the Soviet Union concentrated on its production. The Soviets won the first round: on October 4, 1957, they launched Sputnik I. The American response was to speed up their own research and to inaugurate a high pressure training program for astronauts. By 1960, the American program was paying off, and when in April 1961, the Soviets launched Vostok I - the first manned orbital flight - the United States responded within months with the successful mission of Alan Shepard and Virgil Grissom. It remained for Colonel John Glenn to equate the Soviet record. A naval test pilot with experience in the Vietnam and Korean Wars, he took off from Cape Canaveral on February 20, 1962, on a solo flight which orbited the earth three times in five hours. That caught the popular imagination and made him overnight a national hero. Medals of Honor rained down upon him.

March's Archived Features:

Monday March 1, 2021
Tuesday March 2, 2021



All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.