Glenn then Russians Orbit Earth

Published: 1962
Play Audio Archive Story - UPI
A camera onboard the "Friendship 7" Mercury spacecraft photographs astronaut John H. Glenn Jr. during the Mercury-Atlas 6 space flight on February 20, 1962. (UPI/File)

Unknown Speaker: "Five, four, three, two--"

Unknown Speaker: "Fire under the tail already."

Unknown Speaker: "--one, zero, ignition, liftoff! And there she goes! It is a gorgeous sight, orange flames, literal flames, beneath the Atlas."

William Leiss: The date: February 20, the President's call for redoubling America's efforts in space was faced first by Lieutenant Colonel John H. Glenn; his goal: three orbits around the Earth. His fight was dramatic and successful, and as he rocketed above the United States on one orbit he said...

John H. Glenn: "This is Friendship 7 controlling manually on fly-by wire, having no trouble controlling, very smooth and easy. It controls very nicely."

William Leiss: In the science-fiction world of outer space, it began to appear by late May that the nation's hopes of forging ahead of the Soviet Union might be possible this year, the next flight by an American astronaut, Scott Carpenter. He duplicated Glenn's three trips around the world.

Scott Carpenter: "Canary, TS plus 5 is verified. Manual is satisfactory in all axes. Fly-by wire and auto is satisfactory all axes. Aux Damp is okay, also. Over."

William Leiss: In cold reality, Russia still was in space with the mostest. In mid- August the world was startled, then applauded Soviet scientific skill for an almost unbelievable achievement: two spacemen in orbit on two successive days.

Robert Korngold told that story from Moscow.

Robert Korngold: "Two Soviet cosmonauts were looping the Earth every 88 minutes today in a historic display of Russian space prowess. The Russian spacemen are Major Andrian Nikolayev and Lieutenant Colonel Pavel Popovich, whose two spaceships, Vostok III and Vostok IV, are in full sight and steady radio communication with each other."

William Leiss: In late September, Walter Schirra spent almost nine hours circling the world. It proved America indeed still was in the space race, but had a mighty leap to go to close the gap with the Soviet Union.