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National Perspective

John Glenn, Then and Now

October 29, 1998

Thirty-six years after he first left the Earth's atmosphere, in the tiny Friendship 7 capsule, Sen. John Glenn is returning to space. In 1962 he was a 40-year-old Navy test pilot, who had broken a transcontinental speed record, flying from Los Angeles to New York in 3 hours, 23 minutes. Now, at 77, he is the oldest astronaut ever to fly in space. This time he will not be alone. Connected to wires and sensors, his body will transmit a constant stream of data on hiscardiovascular system, brain waves, temperature and other bodily functions. In addition to serving as experimental subjects, the seven Discovery crewmembers will spend their nine days in orbit in a tightly-scheduled routine, testing a cooling system for the Hubble space telescope's camera and performing experiments on plant growth and materials science.

Shuttle Discovery

Living space: 2,325 cubic feet

Windows: 10

Computers: 5

Weight of shuttle: 153,819 pounds


The Crew

* Curt Brown, commander

* Steve Lindsey, pilot

* Scottt Parazynski, mission specialist

* Pedro Duque, mission specialist

* Chiaki Mukai, payload specialist

* John Glenn, payload specialist


Payload bay (60 ft. x 15 ft.)

Spacehab module contains pressurized workspace where crew can conduct experiments

Flight deck (shuttle pilot will sit here)

Mid deck (John Glenn and other crew members will sit here)

Between-decks ladder

Equipment storage bay

Passageway to Spacehab

Thermal insulation tile withstands high temperatures

Main engine

Rudder and speed brake

Friendship 7 (Capsule not to scale)

Living space: 36 cubic feet.

Computers: 0

Windows: 1

Weight of capsule: 4,256 pounds

The Crew

* John Glenn, Payload Specialist


Double-walled pressurized cabin

Main and reserve parachutes

Manual fligh control


Heat shield

The Missions

Mercury 7

* 3 Earth orbits

* 4 hr. 55 min. flight

* 75,679 miles flown

* Splashed down in down near Bermuda



* 144 orbits of Earth

* 9-day mission

* 3.6 million miles planned

* Expected to land in Florida

1962 Splashdown


* 1957: The Soviet Union launches Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite.

* 1958: First successful U.S. satellite, Explorer 1, is launched.

* 1961: Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin is the first human to orbit Earth.

* 1961: Alan Shepard is the first American in space.

* 1962: John Glenn circles the planet three times in 4 hr. 55 min.; the first American to orbit Earth.

* 1963: Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova is the first woman in space.

* 1965: Cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov takes the first space walk.

* 1965: Edward White II is the first American to walk in space.

* 1967: Astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee die during a launch pad test.

* 1968: Apollo 7 broadcasts the first live TV pictures from space.

* 1968: Apollo 8 is the first manned mission to orbit the moon.

* 1969: Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin walk on the moon.

* 1971: The Soviet Union launches the first space station, Salyut 1. It's crew is killed when their spacecraft becomes depressurized during reentry.

* 1973: The first U.S. space station, Skylab 1 is launched. into orbit.

* 1981: The first reuseable spacecraft, the space shuttle Columbia, is launched.

* 1983: Sally Ride becomes the first U.S. woman in space.

* 1986: The Challenger explodes 73 sec. after lift-off, killing all seven shuttle crew members.

* 1986: Soviet space station Mir launched into Earth orbit.

* 1990: The shuttle Discovery crew places the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit. Astronomers discover that the mirror is flawed.

* 1997: The Sojourner rover lands on Mars and begins to explore.

* 1998: Glenn is scheduled to return to space a second time, aboard Discovery.

* 1998: First piece of the International Space Station due to be launched.

Sources: NASA

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