John Glenn Climbing into the Mercury Spacecraft

Inspired by John Glenn

On February 20, 1962, John Glenn, one of the original seven Mercury astronauts, became the first American to orbit the Earth. His service to his country did not begin or end there. How has the life and legacy of this national hero inspired your own life? 

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Richard W.

Date of Story: 1960's

I remember when I was a kid and I was wearing my Ideal toy astronaut helmet laying at the landing at the bottom of the steps with my feet on the steps mimicing the lanch position of the Mercury Capsules seat. And the best space toy that you don't have on display the GI Joe Mercury Capsule. I still have mine even today!

John S.

Date of Story: current

I was 4 years old when John Glenn launched into space. I grew up with the beginning of the space program. Life was exciting then. I had a lot to look forward to. I had dreams of a bright future. I did not expect I could become an astronaut, but I chose a career in electronics instead, which was the next best thing.
Glenn was the true hero. And one of the most honest and sincere people in the country.
God speed John Glenn.

Michael N.

Date of Story: Dec. 9, 2016

I remember watching the Glenn’s Mercury launch on TV. I was a 10-year-old nascent space buff in Calgary, Alberta. I had once or twice gotten up early for a launch attempt, but it didn’t go. On Feb. 20, 1962, I forgot about until I was up for breakfast before school. Then it occurred to me that they were trying again that day. Luckily for me there had been several holds and it was still on the launch pad at 7:15ish Mountain Time, and because it was two hours earlier than Eastern time, the launch happened at 7:47 before I went to school. I also watched coverage of the landing when I came home for lunch. It was the first rocket launch I saw live and it kicked off a period of intense interest in the US space program that has never ended. It has a lot to do with why ended up at NASM as, of all things, curator of Friendship 7.

James C.

Date of Story: May 3, 1991

I attended the 30th Anniversary of the flight of Alan Shepard, an evening full of astronauts, NASA and space program veterans, news media, entertainment figures, and a few space geeks, like me. All six surviving Mercury astronauts were in attendance, along with Betty Grissom, widow of Gus Grissom. All seven of them gathered at the end of the program to sign autographs. After the program was over, I lingered, not wanting the evening to end, until most people had gone, leaving mostly unoccupied tables and the clean up staff. Except there was John Glenn, alone with a small group of fans, still signing autographs. Of all the many famous people attending that night, he alone would not leave until everyone who wanted his autograph got one.

Matthew S.

Date of Story: 1994

I never had the pleasure to meet John Glenn in person. But he affected my life nonetheless. When I earned the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America, then Senator John Glenn sent me a signed letter congratulating me on my achievement. He recognized the hard work that it took to become an Eagle Scout, but more than this he spoke of the potential things I might accomplish in the future. “One of the most important lessons in life,” he wrote, “and one which some people never fully realize, is that each of us possesses many talents and capabilities in many different areas.” He hoped that Scouting had helped me to “research” my interests and helped me to learn about myself and my potential. More than 37,000 boys earned the Eagle Scout award in 1994, and I’m sure each one received the same letter I did. But it still meant a great deal to me to receive these words from a heroic astronaut and distinguished public servant. I still have the letter.

Shahin F.

I remember when I was about 12 I first heard about his story from one of my friends. He also read about him from the book that he got from his mother. When first I heard it I started to think a bit different about life. Because I never thought that it is possible to go to Mars but when I found out that someone did it 45 years ago I was surprised so I started to think that there is nothing impossible unless you think it is impossible. So it kind of helped me to become more keen about my wishes so I do not just imagine them. I have to do things and sacrifise to make my wishes my decisions and goals. That is how he made me feel different about myself so from since then I started to find my abilities and my capacity


John Glenn was my kind of hero - he served his country well in so many ways throughout his life and he was a great ambassador for aviation and space. I got my pilots' license a few years ago in my 40's. I love the freedom and beauty of flight. John Glenn inspires me even now as I learned recently that he continued to fly until just a few years ago. I think the way he lived his life to the fullest even into his 90's is yet another way he has touched so many lives.

Joseph R.

Date of Story: 29 Octubre 1998

I met John Glenn 18 years ago in Florida on 29 October 1998.
I was at the Kennedy Space Centre for a different reason so it was unexpected. I was actually there to see Pedro Duque, the first Spaniard traveling into space. I had a friend working for the Miami Herald who was covering the story and knowing that I was a big fan of the space program and all things SciFi, invited me. After three anxious days waiting in a motel close to Orlando, NASA called the journalists.

Of course, the press room was packed, but my friend knew how to manipulate the system, so, there we were, in the second row, waiting for seven crew members dressed in orange spacesuits. As the crew came into the room I was ready to say something in Spanish to Pedro, but then I saw this old man sitting there smiling like a boy. For some unknown reason, his face was familiar. The names of the speakers were announced and he was John Glenn, the veteran astronaut and first American in orbit in 1962. Oh my God, that was a long time ago!, I thought. I didn't even think it possible to send such an old man into space. His smile exuded confidence, his age clearly wasn't a limiting factor to him. He was going, at the age of 77, to board the space shuttle Discovery, to becoming the oldest person ever to go into space.

After the Challenger disaster in 1986, when the orbiter broke apart after 73 seconds, leading to the deaths of its seven crew members, the bravery of those astronauts sitting before us was brought even more into sharp focus. However, in comparison with the space shuttle the Mercury space capsule used by John in his first mission was small, I mean, real small ( It was 10.8 feet long and 6.0 feet wide). It was just large enough for a single crew member. I saw that initial capsule; it didn't even have an onboard computer; was made of a nickel alloy; and aluminium honeycomb covered with multiple layers of fibreglass. It looked like a piece of junk. You would have had to have been insane or very brave, or probably a bit of both, to put yourself inside what amounted to a tin can with a liquid-fuelled rocket engine perched precariously on top. As Latinos say when you have incredible courage: John Glenn had real "cojones."

When I returned to Miami that night, I couldn't shake the image of a smiling John Glenn. Sometimes you see someone, who you know in your heart is special and that magic moment in their presence marks you forever. On that day I was aware I had been in the presence of greatness something I will never forget.

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Jeff C.

Date of Story: Feb. 1962

I wanted to be an astronaut ever since I was little. Watching movies like Destination Moon, and TV shows like Men into Space, before our manned space program. Then, to watch Al Shepard's flight, Gus Grissom's near miss. And then, John Glenn's perfectly beautiful flight! I couldn't get enough books about the space program, which meant I had to learn how to read! I made my own space capsule, and would spend hours in it, wearing a football helmet, and going to all the planets, and places my mom's imagination, and spacecraft would take me. Gave up wanting to be an astronaut, when I exceeded the height limit years later...

Ben S.

Date of Story: February 1962

My older brother was the kindergartener; I merely rode along with him in Mom's sky-blue 1959 Mercury to the church that hosted the kindergarten. I kept hearing the name John F. Kennedy, but I wasn't sure who he was. The other name I did know. Everyone knew John Glenn. He blasted into space. Into space! A girl my brother's age noticed that I was holding a fire truck and asked if I wanted to be a fireman. No, I replied, I want to be an astronaut just like John Glenn. I became a teacher instead—but mine was the best sort of boyhood, bounded by Alan Shepherd's flight at three and Gene Cernan's final moonprint at 15. My thrill at our progress in space exploration is unchanged.

Al A.

Date of Story: 1962

I watched John Glenn's parade in Washington, DC. It was cold & raining but we didn't care. Along with the other Mercury astronauts, he inspired me to fly in the Air Force.

Gary K.

Date of Story: December 10, 2016

I remember when USSR's Sputknik was launched. I used to go out in our backyard at night to watch it cross the night sky as it orbited the Earth. Remember Kennedy's speech about the goal before the end of the 1960s to send a man to the Moon and return safely to Earth. Then the selection of the NASA original 7 astronauts. Very interested in science and mathematics growing up in Ohio I followed every NASA space mission. That morning that John Glenn launched on the mighty Atlas rocket inside Friendship 7 our class watched in our school's auditorium during the launch. You know over 50 years now I still know the names for all the crews of Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. As a college bound student of the 1960s and 1970s I took all the science and mathematics I could to prepare myself for college and a life after graduation. I went on to study geology at the University of Toledo. Have worked as a geologist in uranium exploration and production for nuclear power, and then oil & natural gas exploration. What followed was running mainframe computer systems for various corporations. Then taught college mathematics before retiring from work around 2010. While I did have a good career I was still interested in NASA. My enthusiasm served me well--just thought maybe it would end working at Mission Control in Houston, Texas. John Glenn was a great man and is going to be missed. His legacy will remain an inspiration to thousands of others who wish to study and work in STEM related professional endeavours.