By orbiting the Earth, John Glenn showed that the United States could compete with the Soviet Union in the Cold War space race.
Collection Item Summary:
In this historic capsule, John H. Glenn Jr. became the first American to orbit the Earth. Glenn's flight was the third manned mission of Project Mercury, following two suborbital flights by astronauts in 1961. Glenn's three-orbit mission on February 20, 1962, was a sterling success, as he overcame problems with the automatic control system that would have ended an unmanned flight. But reentry was tense, as a faulty telemetry signal from the spacecraft indicated that the heat shield might be loose. Mission Control instructed Glenn not to jettison the retrorocket package after firing in order to better hold the heat shield in place. Glenn reentered successfully and splashed down in the Atlantic 4 hours, 55 minutes and 23 seconds after launch.
NASA transferred Friendship 7 to the Smithsonian Institution in 1963, which has exhibited it in buildings on the National Mall ever since.
Collection Item Long Description:
National Air and Space Museum
Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum
Transferred from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
- Skin & Structure: Titanium
- Heat shield: Phenolic resin, fiberglass
- Shingles: Nickel-steel alloy; berylium shingles removed
Overall: 92 × 75 in., 1930lb. (233.7 × 190.5cm, 875.4kg)
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Country of Origin
United States of America
Explore Object Connections
The two-person Gemini spacecraft was built by McDonnell-Douglas and was of the same basic design as the one-person Mercury capsule.
A Mercury capsule was tested in the NASA Full Scale Wind Tunnel.
John Glenn wore this pressure suit during the first orbital flight of a U.S. astronaut aboard Mercury Friendship 7.