Last updated March 28, 2018 at 2:00 pm
On this day, John Glenn became the first US astronaut to orbit Earth. Look back at how it was reported in the news at the time.
Taking off from Cape Canaveral in Florida, he completed 3 orbits of Earth, travelling 121,000 kilometres aboard the spacecraft Friendship 7. After 4 hours and 55 minutes he splashed down in the North Atlantic Ocean.
It was the moment the US caught up to Russia in the space race. Here is how the Australian newspapers reported it on the day.
(Click to enlarge)
The News, 21 February 1962
The News splashed with “Glenn Safe!” and an image of Glenn smiling aboard the USS Noa after splashdown. On page two it was announced the Australian Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, would issue an invitation to Glenn to visit Australia.
Menzies had also sent a message to US President John F. Kennedy congratulating him on the achievement, and relaying Australia’s pride in its role, “We were happy to be able to take some part in the safety arrangements that were made.”
Also on page two were reactions from Annie Glenn, wife of John, and a report that department store Harris Scarfe had quickly swung into action in decorating their store windows in celebration. Page two contained more details about the mission.
The Advertiser, 21 February 1962
The earlier-issued Adelaide Advertiser covered the launch on its front page, with the mission still in progress as it went to press. In the Stop Press sidebar were more details of Glenn’s orbits as they came to hand.
The Advertiser, 22 February 1962
The day following the mission, The Advertiser covered Glenn’s orbits in more detail.
They quoted Glenn as saying “It was a long day, and a very interesting one, too.”
The puzzles for experts included why Glenn’s automatic control system failed, leaving him to manually control the spacecraft for two of the three orbits. The scientists were also set to work on preventing heat build up inside the capsule from sunlight streaming through the windows.
On page two was a blow-by-blow account of the mission, as well as a comparison between the three crewed space missions so far – Glenn’s, Yuri Gagarin, and the second orbital mission by Gherman Titov. An editorial described the relief of the successful mission, and suggested that “American science has taken a great stride.”