Monday, February 20, 2012

Friendship 7

Worth remembering: John Glenn's flight around the Earth 50 years ago today. I'm not old enough to remember that day, but I learned about it not so many years later from space-flight books and a back issue of National Geographic, complete with that magazine's trademark vivid pictures and illustrations. I checked just now: it was the June 1962 issue, the fourth cover in this gallery. More about the creation of the article is here.

There's a lot of video material about the flight online, including this slick but informative short from NASA.

These are mediocre times for the likes of NASA and the U.S. space program, so I can see why the agency might want to remind the world of its salad days. Such is the uneven course of exploration, or human affairs for that matter. Still, I suspect that the agency, or some successor entity, or private initiatives, will see other space triumphs in future decades, and the stall of the early 21st century will be forgotten.

Also worth remembering: the July 21, 1961, flight of Liberty Bell 7 by the luckless Gus Grissom, who came before Glenn but after Alan Shepard, and whose Mercury flight tends to be ignored compared to those other two. At the end of Grissom's suborbital, his spacecraft sank in the ocean and he almost drowned. And, of course, he died with Ed White and Roger Chaffee in early 1967 in the Apollo 1 fire. That mission had originally been slated to fly 45 years ago tomorrow.

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