February 20, 1962 – First American To Orbit The Earth

John Glenn, first American to orbit the earth

A Hero who made History

Sixty years ago today, John Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth (and the third American in space — after Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom).

Before the famous flight

Before he was one of the original seven American astronauts, he served as a fighter pilot in World War II and Korea. After the wars, he served as a test pilot. One major accomplishment was his 2,445-mile flight in an F8U Crusader from California to New York in a record 3 hours, 23 minutes, and 8.3 seconds. Plus, the on-board camera in his jet took the first continuous, transcontinental panoramic photo of the United States.

After the flight

He was already a war hero (all veterans are as far as I’m concerned). But orbiting the earth elevated Glenn to nationwide fame. President John F. Kennedy did not want to risk Glenn’s life, so Glenn was not allowed to go into space again. He ran for office and served honorably in the U.S. Senate for many years. In 1998, at age 77, he went to space a second time (the oldest American in space as of that date).

Memories of heroes

His bravery and lifetime of service to his beloved country make him one of my heroes.

I wasn’t old enough in 1962 to be aware of his orbital flight in Friendship 7. But he and the other astronauts and their flights became the source of many school projects — and dreams — for the children of the 1960’s.

I remember hearing the 1967 news story about the tragic fire on Apollo 1 that killed Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee, and Edward White. And the first major space-related event I remember watching was the live, grainy, television image of Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon in 1969.

NOTE: The seven original Mercury astronauts were: Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Deke Slayton. All heroes.

What’s the first space-related event you remember?

February 20, 1962 – First American To Orbit The Earth – What's the first space-related event you remember? Click To Tweet

Joni Vance is an award-winning author of fiction, essay, and poetry. She loves mystery, history, and how God reveals Himself every day.


May God reveal the mystery of His love in your life story.

4 thoughts on “February 20, 1962 – First American To Orbit The Earth

  1. I love the details you share. I know very little about these events, but when I see from your post all that John Glenn accomplished, and think about the work that went into being good enough to do all of that, it encourages me to keep on working for my dreams.

    • Thanks for your comments. Yes, I’m in awe of veterans and the astronauts. So thankful for the things they endured, and did for our country. And they do give me motivation to keep trying for my dreams, too.

  2. Great reminder of heroic efforts Joni!

    • I am amazed by the courage of the astronauts and service members. I am so thankful for them, regardless of where and when they serve. Thanks for commenting.

Comments are closed.