On Feb. 20, 1962, John Glenn launched on the Friendship 7 flight, or Mercury 6, the first human orbital flight for NASA. Last night NASA premiered a video to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the flight, and have now made it available to share.
Glenn launched at 9:47:39 am EST from Cape Canaveral, orbiting Earth three times, with his flight lasting 4 hours and 55 minutes. In total he flew 121,793 km (75,679 miles) reaching a speed of 28,234 km/h (17,544 mph.)
Why was his flight named Mercury 6, and why the nickname of Friendship 7?
To clarify the numbering system, Mercury 1 was unmanned and failed, but Mercury 1A, also unmanned was a success, followed by a successful Mercury 2 with Ham the chimpanzee on board, who survived the flight. Mercury 3 and Mercury 4 were the first manned suborbital flights for the US, and were successful. Mercury 5 was another chimpanzee flight, this time with Enos making the flight in the first use of the Atlas rocket for the Mercury program.
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For the Friendship 7 nickname, the 7 represented the seven original Mercury astronauts. As for the name friendship, here’s what John Glenn said in his memoir:
“I set about naming the capsule. Al’s (Shepard) Freedom 7 had struck the right note. Gus (Grissom) in Liberty Bell 7, had been inspired by both patriotism and the capsule’s shape. I had several ideas, but I was trying very hard to keep Dave and Lyn (his children) involved and make them feel a part of my mission. I asked them if they would be willing to think about some names. I said, ‘There’s only one ground rule. The world is going to be watching, so the name should represent our country and the way we feel about the rest of the world.’ They pored over a thesaurus and wrote dozens of names in a notebook. Then they worked them down to several possibilities, names and words including; Columbia, Endeavour, America, Magellan, we, hope, harmony, and kindness. At the top of the list was their first choice: Friendship. I was so proud of them. They had chosen perfectly.”…
From: John Glenn: A Memoir, by John H. Glenn Jr.