By Brienna Rommes
February marked the 60th anniversary of NASA Astronaut John Glenn’s Mercury space launch (Feb. 20, 1962), where he launched from Cape Canaveral Florida inside a tiny, one-person capsule (Friendship 7) and spent 4 hours and 55 minutes circling the planet 3-times before plunging into the beautiful waters near Turks and Caicos Islands.
People were amazed. John was an instant hero. Watch grainy but inspiring archival footage below:
This was the United States’ FIRST human-crewed orbital spaceflight as they desperately tried to catch up to the Soviet Union who has superseded them 10 months earlier with Yuri Gagarin’s orbital flight (and if you want a modern way to catch up on Space History – go watch The Right Stuff series on Disney+).
John went on to become the U.S. Senator (Ohio) in 1974. He won re-election in 1980, 1986 and 1992, serving a total of four terms and influencing the nation for nearly two decades as senator, and another decade as an astronaut. NASA later decided to call John into service again and in October 1998 (at the age of 77!) and he spent nine days aboard the space shuttle Discovery, becoming the oldest person ever to travel to the final frontier. John’s “oldest person in space’ record stood intact until July 2021 when Wally Funk, a lifetime aviation pioneer, boarded Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft at the age of 82 and went into space, breaking Johns record nearly 23 years later. Then, Wally’s record was shattered only 3 months after that when “Star Trek” actor William Shatner flew on a similar New Shepard suborbital mission at the age of 90! We now wonder, who’s next?!