Feb. 20, 1962 - John H. Glenn Jr. orbited three times around the earth today and landed safely to become the first American to make such a flight. The 40-year-old Marine Corps lieutenant colonel traveled about 81,000 miles in 4 hours 56 minutes before splashing into the Atlantic at 2:43 p.m. EST. He had been launched from Cape Canaveral at 9:47 a.m. The astronaut’s safe return was no less a relief than a thrill to the Project Mercury team, because there had been real concern that the Friendship 7 capsule might disintegrate as it rammed back into the atmosphere. There had also been a serious question whether Colonel Glenn could complete three orbits as planned. But despite persistent control problems, he managed to complete the entire flight plan. The astronaut’s landing place was near Grand Turk Island in the Bahamas, about 700 miles southeast of Cape Canaveral. Still in his capsule, he was plucked from the water at 3:01 p.m. with a boom and block and tackle by the destroyer Noa. The capsule was deposited on deck at 3:04. Colonel Glenn’s first words as he stepped out onto the Noa’s deck were: “It was hot in there.” He quickly obtained a glass of iced tea. Colonel Glenn was in fine condition except for two skinned knuckles hurt in the process of blowing out the side hatch of the capsule. The colonel was transferred by helicopter to the carrier Randolph. After a meal and extensive “de-briefing” aboard the carrier, he was flown to Grand Turk by submarine patrol plane for two days of rest and interviews on technical, medical and other aspects of his flight.
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