John Glenn: The First American to Orbit the Earth

Infographic created by Bernice Chen on
Infographic created by Bernice Chen on

On February 20th, 1962, John Glenn became a national hero and a symbol for our country when he became the very first American to successfully orbit the Earth and return safely. This moment in time became a turning point in the history of science discovery, and impacted the course of space exploration forever in the United States.

According to NASA, John Glenn participated in several tests that would select who was to go on the trip into space for the NASA Manned Space Program. The tests had seven criteria, all of which Glenn met. Before this trip, Glenn had also had a reputation for being one of the best test pilots in the United States, having set a transcontinental speed record of reaching New York from Los Angeles in only 3 hours and 23 minutes.

During April 1959, John Glenn became a member of the first group of astronauts, named “The Mercury Seven”, and they began training for preparation into space in facilities like the Gimbal Rig, which simulated tumble-type maneuvers that could possibly be met while astronauts were flying through space.

Finally, after three years of training for his mission, John Glenn boarded the Friendship 7 space capsule. He was launched out of the Earth’s atmosphere from the Cape Canaveral Launch Complex, and became the third American to go into space and the first to orbit the Earth. In a matter of 4 hours and 56 minutes, Glenn went around the globe three times and then splashed down into the Atlantic Ocean, where he was recovered and made a hero.

After this, President John F. Kennedy awarded Glenn with the Space Congressional Medal of Honor, and many schools and streets were eventually named after him because of his successful deed. “When he came back, it inspired other people to fund/raise money for space exploration and now in 2016 we have taken photos and gathered information of every planet, including Pluto,” says Mrs. Collins, an 8th grade teacher. “A huge step for mankind.”

Because of this legendary hero, we are now gaining more and more knowledge about what is out in space. We know more about the planets in our solar system, as well as all of the other galaxies around us. More and more discoveries are being made about the universe by the second, thanks to John Glenn. “We have learned more about space in the past 50 years than in the past 5000, a huge milestone in not only the exploration of space but the conquest of mankind,” says Mrs. Collins.