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KF5JRV > TODAY    20.02.19 13:30l 98 Lines 5472 Bytes #8 (0) @ WW
BID : 31527_KF5JRV
Subj: Today in History - Feb 20
Sent: 190220/1225Z 31527@KF5JRV.#NWAR.AR.USA.NA BPQ6.0.18
From Cape Canaveral, Florida, John Hershel Glenn Jr. is successfully

launched into space aboard the Friendship 7 spacecraft on the first
orbital flight by an American astronaut.

Glenn, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps, was among the
seven men chosen by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
(NASA) in 1959 to become America’s first astronauts. A decorated pilot,
he flew nearly 150 combat missions during World War II and the Korean
War. In 1957, he made the first nonstop supersonic flight across the
United States, flying from Los Angeles to New York in three hours and 23

Glenn was preceded in space by two Americans, Alan B. Shepard Jr. and
Virgil I. “Gusö Grissom, and two Soviets, Yuri A. Gagarin and Gherman S.
Titov. In April 1961, Gagarin was the first man in space, and his
spacecraft Vostok 1 made a full orbit before returning to Earth. Less
than one month later, Shepard was launched into space aboard Freedom 7
on a suborbital flight. In July, Grissom made another brief suborbital
flight aboard Liberty Bell 7. In August, with the Americans still having
failed to make an orbital flight, the Russians sprinted further ahead in
the space race when Titov spent more than 25 hours in space aboard
Vostok 2, making 17 orbits. As a technological power, the United States
was looking very much second-rate compared with its Cold War adversary.
If the Americans wanted to dispel this notion, they needed a
multi-orbital flight before another Soviet space advance arrived.

It was with this responsibility in mind that John Glenn lifted off from
the launch pad at Cape Canaveral at 9:47 a.m. on February 20, 1962. Some
100,000 spectators watched on the ground nearby and millions more saw it
on television. After separating from its launching rocket, the
bell-shaped Friendship 7 capsule entered into an orbit around Earth at a
speed of about 17,500 miles per hour. Smoothing into orbit, Glenn
radioed back, “Capsule is turning around. Oh, that view is tremendous.ö

During Friendship 7‘s first orbit, Glenn noticed what he described as
small, glowing fireflies drifting by the capsule’s tiny window. It was
some time later that NASA mission control determined that the sparks
were crystallized water vapor released by the capsule’s air-conditioning
system. Before the end of the first orbit, a more serious problem
occurred when Friendship 7‘s automatic control system began to
malfunction, sending the capsule into erratic movements. At the end of
the orbit, Glenn switched to manual control and regained command of the

Toward the end of Glenn’s third and last orbit, mission control received
a mechanical signal from the spacecraft indicating that the heat shield
on the base of the capsule was possibly loose. Traveling at its immense
speed, the capsule would be incinerated if the shield failed to absorb
and dissipate the extremely high reentry temperatures. It was decided
that the craft’s retrorockets, usually jettisoned before reentry, would
be left on in order to better secure the heat shield. Less than a minute
later, Friendship 7 slammed into Earth’s atmosphere.

During Glenn’s fiery descent back to Earth, the straps holding the
retrorockets gave way and flapped violently by his window as a shroud of
ions caused by excessive friction enveloped the spacecraft, causing
Glenn to lose radio contact with mission control. As mission control
anxiously waited for the resumption of radio transmissions that would
indicate Glenn’s survival, he watched flaming chunks of retrorocket fly
by his window. After four minutes of radio silence, Glenn’s voice
crackled through loudspeakers at mission control, and Friendship 7
splashed down safely in the Atlantic Ocean. He was picked up by the USS
destroyer Noa, and his first words upon stepping out of the capsule and
onto the deck of the Noa were, “It was hot in there.ö He had spent
nearly five hours in space.

Glenn was hailed as a national hero, and on February 23 President John
F. Kennedy visited him at Cape Canaveral. He later addressed Congress
and was given a ticker-tape parade in New York City.

Out of a reluctance to risk the life of an astronaut as popular as
Glenn, NASA essentially grounded the “Clean Marineö in the years after
his historic flight. Frustrated with this uncharacteristic lack of
activity, Glenn turned to politics and in 1964 announced his candidacy
for the U.S. Senate from his home state of Ohio and formally left NASA.
Later that year, however, he withdrew his Senate bid after seriously
injuring his inner ear in a fall. In 1970, following a stint as a Royal
Crown Cola executive, he ran for the Senate again but lost the
Democratic nomination to Howard Metzenbaum. Four years later, he
defeated Metzenbaum, won the general election, and went on to win
reelection three times. In 1984, he unsuccessfully sought the Democratic
nomination for president.

In early 1998, NASA announced it had approved Glenn to serve as a
payload specialist on the space shuttle Discovery. On October 29, 1998,
nearly four decades after his famous orbital flight, the 77-year-old
Glenn became the oldest human ever to travel in space. During the
nine-day mission, he served as part of a NASA study on health problems
associated with aging. In 1999, he retired from his U.S. Senate seat
after four consecutive terms in office, a record for the state of Ohio.

73 de Scott KF5JRV


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