New iPad App Lets You Relive John Glenn's 'Friendship 7' Flight 50 Years Later

On Feb. 20, 1962, John Glenn rode the Friendship 7 capsule into space, the first time an American orbited the Earth. In this image, Glenn enters the capsule with assistance from technicians.
On Feb. 20, 1962, John Glenn rode the Friendship 7 capsule into space, the first time an American orbited the Earth. In this image, Glenn enters the capsule with assistance from technicians. (Image credit: NASA)

Want to experience what it was like to be inside NASA's mission control center 50 years ago, monitoring astronaut John Glenn as he became the first American to orbit the Earth? There's an app for that.

Spacecraft Films, which for more than a decade has been restoring mission footage for DVD and Blu-ray distribution, launched their first Apple iPad app on Monday (Feb. 13), a week before the 50th anniversary of John Glenn's historic mission.

The app, which is called "Friendship 7: The Voyage of Mercury-Atlas 6," gives users a seat in mission control for a multimedia-rich playback of the flight on Feb. 20, 1962.

"Fifty years ago John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth," Mark Gray, Spacecraft Films' producer, wrote in a description of the app for the Apple store. "Relive his three-orbit mission with exclusive access to over 4 hours of rare video, plus the complete audio from the onboard recorder and flight director's loop recorded in mission control."

The app, which requires Apple iOS 5.0 or later and a Wifi connection for watching the streaming videos, is available for download for $6.99.

Spacecraft Films' “Friendship 7” app gives iPad users a front and center seat in mission control for John Glenn's historic flight. (Image credit: Spacecraft Films)

Pre-launch training

The "Friendship 7" app begins with a pilot's view of the Mercury capsule's cockpit. Tapping in the lower right corner, the static photo becomes an interactive tour. By touching each panel, users can bring up the details about what every dial and switch controlled.

Once familiar with Friendship 7, users can tap through and watch six "Pre-Launch" videos, including the 1959 press conference announcing John Glenn and the other original Mercury astronauts. Another video channel, titled "Altitude Chamber," shows footage of Glenn with his backup, Scott Carpenter, during a checkout of the spacecraft. [Photos: John Glenn's Space Legacy]

Other videos offer a look at the Atlas D missile that became Glenn's rocket, and the Friendship 7 capsule itself, including footage of artist Cece Bibby painting the spacecraft's logo on capsule's side.

The "Simulated Flight" channel offers a 10-minute look at Glenn during a mission simulation conducted on the launch pad. The footage from Jan. 17, 1962 is paired with the audio from a pre-flight interview with Glenn.

Lastly, a silent track offers a look at the activities leading up to a called-off launch attempt on Jan. 27, 1962. The Friendship 7 launch was postponed and "scrubbed" a total of 11 times before it successfully lifted off on Feb. 20.

Go for orbit

After the pre-launch activities, the app next moves into mission control. Choosing either "Onboard Recorder" or "Flight Director Loop" channels changes the view from inside Friendship 7 to the flight director's console in the control room at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Just like the real Mercury mission control, the field of view is filled by a large world map with circles indicating ground stations and a red Mercury capsule tracking where Glenn and Friendship 7 were in flight. Here, content channels are selected by pressing buttons on the console.

The "Onboard Recorder" plays back air-to-ground audio as was recorded inside the Friendship 7 capsule.

A weightless applesauce tube floats free following a snack by astronaut John Glenn in the course of his first orbit during the Mercury "Friendship 7" mission on February 20, 1962. (Image credit: NASA)

"Glenn's mission lasted about five hours," Gray wrote on Spacecraft Films' website. "The 'Friendship 7' app contains the complete onboard recording during the mission, presented to enable you to access it at any point, and monitor the progress of the spacecraft as they did from the Mercury Mission Control Center."

Similarly, "Flight Loop" taps into flight director Christopher Kraft's audio, letting users listen in on the calls between the various mission control consoles throughout the flight.

Users can also access videos of Glenn eating breakfast, getting into his spacesuit, moving to the launch pad, and entering the spacecraft on launch day, as well six different views of the liftoff of Friendship 7. Another film gives a sense of what it was like on the ground, with footage taken inside the Mercury mission control during the flight. [America's First Spaceship: Project Mercury (Infographic)]

The "Friendship 7" app also offers complete footage from the pilot observation camera, showing Glenn seated on board the spacecraft, with audio from the air-to-ground transmissions.

"[The footage is] from a recent digital transfer of the film, much better than the quality has been in the past," Gray wrote.

In addition, users can flip through the photographs taken by Glenn of the Earth below. Where possible, Spacecraft Films has captioned each 35mm shot as to what location it shows and during which of Glenn's three orbits it was taken.

As the mission comes to a close, the app offers footage of the recovery of Friendship 7 and the ticker tape parade in New York City that celebrated Glenn's success.

With the nearly five hour flight at its end, users can then tap back to the first screen to view footage taken in 2009 showing the Complex 14 launch pad as it appears today at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

iPad users can read more about and download the “Friendship 7” app from Apple’s App Store.

Continue reading at to learn the subject of Spacecraft Films’ next iPad app. 

Follow collectSPACE on Facebook and Twitter @collectSPACE and editor Robert Pearlman @robertpearlman. Copyright 2011 All rights reserved.

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Robert Z. Pearlman Editor, Contributor

Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.