NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Launch of America's first orbital spaceflight. The Mercury Atlas rocket, carrying astronaut John Glenn, blasts off from Cape Canaveral at the beginning of Mercury mission MA-6 on 20 February 1962. Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth on this mission, in his capsule named Friendship 7. The orbit reached 161km x 261km, at an inclination of 32.5 degrees. A telemetry fault gave a false warning that the craft's heatshield was unlocked. The flight was abandoned after just three orbits, and Glenn landed safely - 4 hours 55 minutes after launch. Glenn never went into space again, entering politics after leaving NASA and becoming a US Senator.
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