50th Anniversary of John Glenn’s Orbital Flight

Today marks the 50th anniversary of John Glenn’s first orbital flight.  Glenn was joined in a ceremony commemorating the event by Scott Carpenter.

Glenn and fellow astronaut Scott Carpenter, 86, spent nearly an hour before the ceremony being photographed with the retirees, posing for individual pictures in front of a black curtain with a model of a Mercury-Atlas rocket. Glenn and Carpenter are the lone survivors of NASA’s original Mercury 7 astronauts.

Here is a photo of the introduction of the Mercury 7 astronauts:

This was back in a time when America did things like introduce its astronauts to the its proud citizens and the world.  It was a time when people looked to America for thought leadership.  Now of course we don’t have time for such things.  The news is filled instead with whatever story has been trumped up as part of political gamesmanship and maneuvering.  I think the flavor of the week is contraception but I honestly can’t be bothered to pay attention to such trivialities.

The history of the Mercury 7 program has always meant something to me personally.  Every year the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation honors five undergraduates and five graduate students with scholarships.  Back in my undergrad days it was known as the Mercury 7 Scholarship Foundation and in my senior year I was one of those lucky enough to be so honored.

I remember getting the award and being somewhat in awe that I was in some small way part of the legacy of spirit of adventure of those brave men.  The path they blazed in space they continued through education.

American doesn’t have astronauts anymore of course.  Or at least the ones that are still around have to beg rides on Russian rockets.  Maybe if we are nice and continue to look the other way on human right atrocities and catastrophic pollution China will show us pity and let us piggy back on their future vehicles.  A sad state of affairs on what should be a day of celebration.

When did Stagnation and Recovery become synonyms?
Did that Priest just flip Obama off?
  • It is sad we’re not celebrating the fact of colonies on the moon and on our way
    to Mars.


  • MichaelLaprarie

    Congrats on your scholarship Dan.  Were you a member of Sigma Pi Sigma also?

    There was a great story about Glenn and Scott Carpenter traveling to Florida last week for a reunion with the tech crew that made his launch possible.  Glenn is 90, Carpenter is 86; most of the techies are in their 80’s.


    I have to wonder how disappointed those guys were with the fact that our space program pretty much fizzled out in the 1970’s.   I imagine they expected far greater things from a program that accomplished so much in its first decade.

  • jim_m

    You couldn’t do the Apollo project today because the greens would block due to the fact that the rockets used produced enormous volumes of water vapor as the exhaust product and water vapor is a worse greenhouse gas than CO2.

    • herddog505

      The rockets might also hit some birds.

    • MichaelLaprarie

      Yeah … and it would have easily taken until 1970 just to run the environmental impact studies on the swampland around Cape Canaveral.  If today’s environmentalists and government regulations were around in 1962, we would have been lucky to have had one launch pad constructed by 1982.

  • Meiji Man

    Amazing, they went from this to the Moon in under a decade. 

    We couldn’t make it to Mars in the next 25 the way things are now. We can ‘t even replace two buildings that originally took 4 years to build that were destroyed over 10 years ago. 

    • We could.  But it’d take a complete change of mindset in Washington.  As it is now, they don’t see any utility in anything that takes more than one election cycle to complete.  And long-term allocations for space are just sitting there, begging the politician to take a little slice here, and a few million there, and a little more for pet projects…

      Pretty soon, you’re left with nothing.  Which, surprisingly, is about what you’ve got let after all the trillions spent on the War on Poverty.

  • What great heroes they were!  Glenn was the talkative one, at least with the press, and had the presence to pull it off – sort of like John with the early Beatles a couple years later.  But he had been one of our top fighter pilots in the early days of jet fighters too – a true “Right Stuff” guy, as were they all.

    Interesting tidbit:  Ted Williams, the baseball great, was called back after serving in WWII to pull another stint in the Korean War, something no other ballplayer was asked to do.  Why?  Because he had been Glenn’s wing man, and Glenn specifically asked for him again.

    • Gmacr1

      He had 5 DFC’s, no small feat in itself.
      I did not know that TW was his wing…

  • herddog505

    Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolution, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it–we mean to lead it.

    We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

    President John F. Kennedy
    Sept. 12, 1962*

    Big dreams and national aspirations to be a world leader, to do something historic.  Now, we intend to lead the world in passing out food stamps, in funding economically foolish “green energy” programs, and in bankrupting ourselves to “save or create” union jobs.  We choose NOT to go to the Moon, but to hitch rides with the Russians and engage in “outreach” to Muslims.

    Jebus… Fifty years shot to hell.


    (*) http://www.historyplace.com/speeches/jfk-space.htm

    • Commander_Chico

       Now, we intend to lead the world in passing out food stamps, in funding economically foolish “green energy” programs, and in bankrupting ourselves to “save or create” union jobs.

      Not to mention fighting wars in southwest Asia.   Well, I’ll mention it.  That would save the few billion it would take every year to go back to the moon and on to Mars.

      • That money would be spent on much more important things.

        We’ll raise unemployment rates by a dollar a day.  It’ll buy votes – making it well worth the expense.  Social giveaways are much more important than space programs, after all.

        (Cynical? Me?  Nah…)

  • waldohufnagle

    I was on one of the recovery ships for Glenn’s flight. We didn’t pick him up, another destroyer did, The Noa. Years later, when he was running for president,  met him at a fundraiser in Brooklyn. I told him about waiting to pluck him from the water and we talked for a while. A true gentleman.

  • Gmacr1

    sigh I remember as a child sitting in front of the TV watching the launch in total awe.

    John Glen & company were truely pioneers of the day and will live forever in history as the men who conquered space.

    (whining deleted, bad form)

  • Guest

    I lost all respect for John Glenn when he was bought off during the Clinton impeachment for the price of a ride in the shuttle.

  • We covered the event with John Glenn and Scott Carpenter at KSC on 2-18-12, photos and video at starznbarz photography