John Glenn

The Man and the Mission

John Glenn – A short biography

John Herschel Glenn Jr. was born July 18, 1921, in Cambridge, Ohio. He attended primary and secondary schools in New Concord, Ohio. He received a bachelor of science degree in engineering from Muskingum College in New Concord.  He died Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016, at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio. 

He flew missions during World War II and the Korean War.  He received many medals, awards and decorations for his achievements during his time in the military and as an astronaut.

NASA selected Glenn to be one of the seven Project Mercury astronauts in 1959.  In addition to a lustrious carreer in the Navy he serves as a U.S. Senator from 1987 to 1995.  After retiring from the Senate at at age 77 he becomes the oldest person to travel in space when he returns to space aboard the Space Shutttle Discovery.

His connection to the Turks & Caicos Island and Grand Turk began in February 1962 as part of the Mecury project and space capsule Friendship 7 .  Glenn landed in nearby waters after his historic orbit of Earth.  He was the first American to orbit Earth, circling the globe three times in four hours and 56 minutes.  After his splashdown he was brought to Grand Turk.

John Glenn’s Details - Third flight in Mercury program

Capsule name - Friendship 7
August 27 1961 - Capsule arrived at Cape Canaveral
January 27 1962 - Countdown starts – Launch cancelled due to adverse weather
February 15 1962 - Flight Safety Review
February 20 1962 - 2.20 a.m. Glenn woken and told mission is a “go”
February 20 1962 - Launch at 9:47:39 am EST
February 20 1962 - Lands at 14:43:02 pm EST

Flight Details

Orbits - 3
Altitude - between 99 and 162 miles
Total flight time - 4 hours 56 minutes
Total time weightless - 4 hours 38 minutes
Total miles flown - 81 000
Acceleration force - Launch, 8 G. Re entry, over 8 G

During John Glenn’s mission the recovery area was nicknamed “Area Hotel” and during his second orbit Glenn reported “This is Friendship 7, checking down in Area Hotel on the weather, and it looks good down that way. Looks like we’ll have no problem on recovery” to which Grissom in Bermuda responded “Very good. We’ll see you in Grand Turk”.

Broadcast between John Glenn and the Bermuda Tracking Station(Flight time on left)
03 12 32 - Glenn This is Friendship Seven, checking down in Area Hotel on the weather and it looks good down that way. Looks like we’ll have no problem on recovery.
03 12 32 - Bermuda Station Very good. We’ll see you in Grand Turk
03 12 43 - Glenn Yes sir.
03 12 48 - Glenn In fact I can see clear down, see all the islands clear down the whole chain from up here, can see way beyond them and Area Hotel looks excellent for recovery.

Prior to re entry ground instruments indicated that the heat shield had become loose. As a precaution mission controllers did not jettison the retrorocket package, which was attached just below the heat shield. Even with this problem Friendship 7 landed a few miles short of the planned target, 800 miles southeast of Bermuda.

After landing and being brought to Grand Turk there were various press releases and in one Robert Voas, Mercury Training Officer, recalled Glenn’s account of returning in “a shooting star”.


Lookouts on the destroyer USS Noa sighted the main parachute at an altitude of 5,000 ft from a range of 5 nautical miles. The USS Noa had the spacecraft aboard 21 minutes after landing and astronaut John Glenn remained in the spacecraft during pickup. Original plans had called for Glenn to exit through the top hatch but he was becoming uncomfortably warm and it was decided to exit by the easier side hatch. Glenn was transferred by helicopter from the USS Noa to the USS Randolph, and then flown to Grand Turk for his debriefing and medical as planned. The capsule joined him later when it was delivered to Grand Turk by ship.

On Grand Turk

On February 21st Colonel Glenn attended a party given in his honour at the clubhouse of the USAF Missile tracking Station. Most of this time was taken up with signing autographs and going through the details of his flight. He went to bed at midnight, and woke at 6 am to continue with the debriefing process.

The Return to America

When the US Vice President, Lyndon B. Johnson arrived at 4am to take John Glenn home, a large part of the population was waiting for him at the airport and greeted him with great enthusiasm in spite of the early hour. The records state “Of all the receptions which the Vice-President and the astronaut were later to receive, perhaps none would be smaller but certainly none would be warmer or more sincere that that given by the people of Grand Turk on their departure in the early morning of 23 Feb”.

On 26th February 1962, John Glenn, with wife Annie were greeted by thousands who lined Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue. In the car with them was Vice President Lyndon B Johnson, Chairman of the Nautical Aeronautics and Space Council.