Dr. von Braun and Astronaut John Glenn
Dr. von Braun briefs Astronaut John Glenn in the control room of the Vehicle Test Section, Quality Assurance Division, Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
With the Feb. 20, 1962 launch of the MA-6 spacecraft, Friendship 7, atop an Atlas vehicle, Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. Glenn's historic flight lasted almost five hours, orbited the earth three times, and ended with a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean. Safely aboard the U.S. Destroyer, Noa, Glenn received a congratulatory radio telephone call from President Kennedy during which he described his mission as "a wonderful trip -- almost unbelievable." The successful flight of MA-6 achieved the primary objectives of Project Mercury in grand style and prompted President Kennedy to proclaim, "We have a long way to go in this space race. But this is the new ocean, and I believe the United States must sail on it and be in a position second to none."
Image credit: NASA/MSFC