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

Pre-Flight Checks

NASA

Sitting beside his Friendship 7 capsule, astronaut John Glenn, pilot of the Mercury-Atlas 6 mission, is suited up, preparing for the launch. Artist Cecilia Bibby, who painted the Friendship 7 spacecraft, is pictured in the bottom left.

The Future Begins

NASA

As astronaut John Glenn boards the Friendship 7 spacecraft with the aide of technicians, the countdown begins its final phase. The Atlas launch vehicle lifted the Mercury module into orbit where the craft and its passenger orbited the Earth three times in just less than 5 hours.

On the Catwalk

NASA

Before the Mercury-Atlas 6 mission launched on Feb. 20, 1962, the Friendship 7 capsule, atop the Atlas rocket, stands with the catwalk still attached.

Sacrificing Sleep

NASA

As dawn breaks at Cape Canaveral, Florida, press and photographers are ready to record the launch of Mercury-Atlas 6, with John Glenn on board.

An Historic Moment

NASA

The Mercury-Atlas 6 launch vehicle and spacecraft lift off successfully on a mission that would set new records and make history.

Images of Home

NASA

On Feb. 20, 1962, during the first crewed, orbital American spaceflight, astronaut John Glenn snapped this image of Earth from his "Friendship 7" spacecraft.

Getting a New Perspective

NASA

During his Mercury-Atlas 6 mission orbiting Earth on Feb. 20, 1962, astronaut John Glenn saw our Blue Marble from a new frame of reference that no American had ever seen before.

The Edge of the Earth

NASA

John Glenn saw the Earth from a maximum altitude of 162 miles (261 km), orbiting the globe three times in 4 hours and 55 minutes.

Sunset in Space

NASA

John Glenn's first orbital sunset, a stunning image taken aboard Friendship 7.

Breathtaking Image from Orbit

NASA

As the sun sets on the horizon, a blue hue highlights the edge of the world.

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