In Photos: How John Glenn Made History on 1st US Orbital Flight Mercury-Atlas 6

All Aboard!


On Feb. 20, 1962, NASA astronaut John H. Glenn, Jr. became the first American to orbit the Earth. Scroll through this gallery for behind-the-scenes shots of his historic mission,

Egress Training


In 1960, astronaut John Glenn climbs out of a mockup Mercury capsule during egress training at Langley Research Center.

The Altitude Chamber


Suited up with a ventilation hose attached, Glenn stands at the entrance to the test chamber during an altitude chamber test.



At the U.S. Navy School of Aviation Medicine, John Glenn participates in a disorientation test in the rotating chair.

Taking Samples


John Glenn sits for a blood draw by astronaut nurse Delores B. O'Hara, at the Aeromedical Laboratory in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Balancing Act


John Glenn takes the balance mechanism performance test by walking across a narrow board, with his eyes closed and barefoot, in 1962.

Eye-Ear Balance Connection


For additional testing on John Glenn's balance mechanism, a NASA technician runs cool water into Glenn's ear and measures the effect on his eye motions, known as nystagmus.

Learning the Cosmos


In February 1962, during a training event at the Aeromedical Laboratory at Cape Canaveral, John Glenn looks into a Celestial Training Device.

A Moment of Repose


During a pre-flight activity, John Glenn's backup pilot, Scott Carpenter (far left) and Glenn relax after sharing breakfast.

Man in Spacesuit


John Glenn suits up for the Mercury-Atlas 6 flight.

Off for the Launch


Leaving the crew quarters before the Mercury-Atlas 6 mission, astronaut John Glenn, flight surgeon William Douglas and equipment specialist Joe Schmitt make their way to the launch pad. Glenn dons his pressure suit and the portable ventilation unit is seen in his right hand.

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Christine Lunsford
Producer and Contributing Writer

Christine Lunsford joined the team in 2010 as a freelance producer and later became a contributing writer, covering astrophotography images, astronomy photos and amazing space galleries and more. During her more than 10 years with, oversaw the site's monthly skywatching updates and produced overnight features and stories on the latest space discoveries. She enjoys learning about subjects of all kinds.