The first US spaceman orbits Earth
On this day in 1962, the first American to orbit the Earth landed safely in the Atlantic Ocean.
John Glenn, 40, travelled about 81,000 miles (more than 130,000km) as he
circled the globe three times at a speed of more than 17,000 mph (27,000kph).
controlled nearly two of the orbits himself after reporting "minor
difficulties" with the automatic altitude control system as he completed
the third circuit - the maximum anticipated.
Messages from the
astronaut were transmitted by radio stations across the United States and
United Kingdom and his progress was monitored by 18 ground stations around the
As he re-entered
the atmosphere after his four-hour and 56-minute journey Lieutenant Glenn said:
"Boy, that was a real fireball."
Friendship Seven, landed at 2040 GMT, 240 miles north-west of Puerto Rico,
where it was picked up by the US destroyer Noa.
American ships were ready to pick up the astronaut and his craft from various
locations across the globe.
The capsule was launched from the
flaming Atlas rocket at 1447 GMT from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
President Kennedy followed the mission
on television and telephoned the astronaut afterwards.
"We are really proud of you. You
did a wonderful job," he said.
The Queen and British Prime Minister,
Harold Macmillan, also cabled their congratulations.
Technical problems had delayed the
mission 10 times - a total of 61 days.
The US Earth orbit took place 10
months and 10 days after Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in
space, making one circulation of the globe.