In this historical photo from the U.S. space agency, Astronaut John Glenn and technicians inspect artwork that will be painted on the outside of his Mercury spacecraft. John Glenn nicknamed his capsule "Friendship 7."
On February 20, 1962 astronaut John H. Glenn Jr. lifted off into space aboard his Mercury Atlas (MA-6) rocket and became the first American to orbit the Earth. After orbiting the Earth 3 times, Friendship 7 landed in the Atlantic Ocean 4 hours, 55 minutes and 23 seconds later, just East of Grand Turk Island in the Bahamas. Glenn and his capsule were recovered by the Navy Destroyer Noa, 21 minutes after splashdown.
Each weekday, SPACE.com looks back at the history of spaceflight through photos (archive).