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Transcript of John Glenn's Official Communication with the Command Center (1962)

John Glenn conducted the first manned space orbit of the earth on February 20, 1962. This is the transcription of his in-flight communication with Mission Control in Florida.

Soviet scientists stunned the world on October 4, 1957, when they launched a satellite, called Sputnik I, into orbit around the earth. It weighted 184 pounds. A month later they exceeded their previous mark by launching a larger satellite that weighed 1,120 pounds and carried a dog. This amazing scientific accomplishment sent a shock wave through America. The military significance of Sputnik was lost on no one, for if the Soviets could fire heavy objects into outer space, they could certainly reach America with intercontinental missiles loaded with nuclear warheads. A space and arms race fever swept the nation, and by January 31, 1958, America regained some confidence and prestige by launching Explorer I, a grapefruit sized-sized (2.5 pounds) satellite, into orbit. To stay competitive in this race, President Eisenhower proposed and Congress passed the National Defense and Education Act, which authorized $887 million in loans and grants to aid college students in teaching sciences and languages. Between 1958 and 1961, a series of unmanned launches by the Americans and the Soviets resulted in the launch of the first man into space by the Soviets on April 12, 1961. Just over 20 days later, on May 5, Alan B. Shepard, Jr., became the first American in space.

John Glenn blasted into orbit around the earth on February 20, 1962. Encased in a bulky pressurized suit, strapped into a seat, and crammed into a tiny capsule, Glenn put his life at risk as he traveled at 17,500 miles per hour 160 miles above Earth. With great skill, courage, and grace, Glenn manually piloted Friendship 7 when the autopilot function failed. Mission Control was also concerned about whether the capsule's life-saving heat shield would hold when Glenn reentered the atmosphere. After Glenn began his second orbit, Mission Control received a signal that the heat shield, designed to prevent the capsule from burning up during reentry, was loose. Although it could have been a faulty signal, Mission Control took no chances. Normally, the retropacket package would be jettisoned after the rockets were fired to slow the capsule for reentry. In this case, however, Glenn was ordered to retain the retropack to hold the heat shield in place. While struggling to maintain control of the spacecraft, Glenn watched as huge chunks flew past the window and wondered whether it was the retropack or heat shield breaking up. The heat shield held. If it hadn't, Glenn and his capsule would have been incinerated. Glenn returned to Earth after five hours, suffering no injury more severe than scraped knuckles, sustained as he prepared to exit the capsule after a safe splashdown.

In the flood of enthusiasm after Glennís flight, President John F. Kennedy proposed a new challenge on September 12, 1962, in an address at Rice University:

There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

The documents presented here are pages of the official flight transcript of Glenn's 1962 spaceflight document the reentry.

For more information and other documents from the Friendship 7 mission, visit the Featured Documents section of the National Archives' Online Exhibit Hall.

To listen to John Glennís radio transmissions with Mission Control, visit NASA's Project Mercury Archive.

Transcript of Transcript of John Glenn's Official Communication with the Command Center (1962)

04 36 56

0.4

CC

Roger.

04 37 00

9.6

P

There is quite a bit of cloud cover down in this area. I can, ah, right on track, I can only see certain areas. I can see quite a bit on up to the north, however.

04 37 18

2.4

P

This is Friendship 7, going to manual control.

04 37 21

1.3

CC

Ah, Roger, Friendship 7.

04 37 23

2.7

P

This is banging in and out here; I'll just control it manually.

04 37 25

0.4

CC

Roger.

04 37 48

3.1

CC

Friendship 7, Guaymas Cap Com, reading you loud and clear.

04 37 51

2.1

P

Roger, Guaymas, read you loud and clear also.

 

 

 

TEXAS

04 38 06

4.0

CT

Friendship 7, Friendship 7, this is Texas Com Tech. Do you read? Over.

04 38 10

1.3

P

Roger, Texas, go ahead.

04 38 13

3.9

CT

Ah, Roger. Reading you 5 square. Standby for Texas Cap Com.

04 38 16

0.4

P

Roger.

04 38 25

23.8

CC

This is Texas Cap Com, Friendship 7. We are recommending that you leave the retropackage on through the entire reentry. This means that you will have to override the 05g switch which is expected to occur at 04 43 _3. Tis also means that you will have to manually retract the scope. Do you read?

04 38 49

4.0

P

This is Friendship 7. What is the reason for this? Do you have any reason? Over.

04 38 53

3.6

CC

Not at this time; this is the judgement of Cape Flight.

04 38 58

2.6

P

Ah, Roger. Say again your instructions please. Over.

04 39 01

22.1

CC

We are recommending that the retropackage not, I say again, not be jettisoned. This means that you will have to override the 05g switch which is expected to occur at 04 43 53. This is approximately 4-1/2 minutes from now. This also means that you will have to retract the scope manually. Do you understand?

04 39 25

9.7

P

Ah, Roger, understand. I will have to make a manual 05g entry when it occurs, and bring the scope in, ah, manually. Is that affirm?

04 39 35

2.5

CC

That is affirmative, Friendship 7.

04 39 39

0.6

P

Ah, Roger.

04 39 42

3.6

P

This is Friendship 7, going to reentry attitude, then, in that case.

04 40 00

3.8

CC

Friendship 7, Cape flight will give you the reasons for this action when you are in view.

04 40 06

2.6

P

Ah, Roger. Ah, Roger. Friendship 7.

04 40 09

2.5

CC

Everything down here on the ground looks okay.

04 40 12

1.5

P

Ah, Roger. This is Friendship 7.

04 40 14

1.4

CC

Confirm your attitudes.

04 40 16

0.4

P

Roger.

 

 

 

CANAVERAL

04 40 23

1.7

CC

Ah, Friendship 7, this is Cape. Over.

04 40 25

1.5

P

Go ahead, Cape. Friend 7.

04 40 27

4.9

CC

Ah, recommend you go to reentry attitude and retract the scope manually at this time.

04 40 32

1.9

P

Ah, Roger, retracting scope manually.

04 40 36

14.6

CC

While you're doing that, we are not sure whether or not your landing bag has deployed. We feel it is possible to reenter with the retropackage on. Ah, we see no difficulty at this time in that type of reentry. Over.

04 40 51

1.6

P

Ah, Roger, understand.

04 41 10

1.4

CC

Seven, this is Cape. Over.

04 41 12

1.5

P

Go ahead, Cape. Friendship 7.

04 41 15

5.4

CC

Estimating 05g at 04 44.

04 41 21

0.6

P

Ah, Roger.

04 41 23

3.0

CC

You override 05g at that time.

04 41 31

2.7

P

Ah, Roger. Friendship 7.

04 41 33

13.2

P

This is Friendship 7. I'm on straight manual control at present time. This was, ah, still kicking in and out of orientation mode, mainly in yaw, ah, following retrofire, so I am on straight manual now. I'll back it up ---

04 41 45

0.8

CC

--- on reentry.

04 41 47

0.9

P

Say again.

04 41 50

0.6

CC

Standby.

04 41 53

6.2

P

This is Friendship 7. Ah, going to fly-by-wire. I'm down to about 15 percent on manual.

04 42 00

8.9

CC

Ah, Roger. You're going to use fly-by-wire for reentry and we recommend that you do the best you can to keep a zero angle during reentry. Over.

04 42 09

1.2

P

Ah, Roger. Friendship 7.

04 42 13

3.4

P

This is Friendship 7. I'm on fly-by-wire, back-it up with manual. Over.

04 42 18

1.1

CC

Roger, understand.

04 42 29

9.2

CC

Ah, Seven, this is Cape. The weather in the recovery area is excellent, 3-foot waves, only one-tenth cloud coverage, 10 miles visibility.

04 42 39

1.2

P

Ah, Roger. Friendship 7.

04 42 47

1.4

CC

Ah, Seven, this is Cape. Over.

04 42 49

2.5

P

Go ahead, Cape, you're ground, you are going out.

04 42 52

1.8

CC

We recommend that you ---

04 43 16

2.9

P

This is Friendship 7. I think the pack just let go.

04 43 39

2.4

P

This is Friendship 7. A real fireball outside.

04 44 20

1.9

P

Hello, Cape. Friendship 7. Over.

04 45 18

1.9

P

Hello, Cape. Friendship 7. Over.

04 45 43

2.3

P

Hello, Cape. Friendship 7. Do you receive? Over.

04 46 20

2.0

P

Hello, Cape. Friendship 7. Do you receive? Over.

04 47 18

1.2

CC

--- How do you read? Over.

04 47 20

1.5

P

Loud and clear; how me?

04 47 22

1.6

CC

Roger, reading you loud and clear. How are you doing?

04 47 25

1.0

P

Oh, pretty good.

04 47 30

3.8

CC

Roger. Your impact point is within one mile of the up-range destroyer.

04 47 34

0.5

P

Ah, Roger.

04 47 35

0.2

CC

--- Over.

04 47 36

0.3

P

Roger.

04 47 44

3.4

CC

This is Cape, estimating 4 50. Over.

04 47 48

1.5

P

Roger, 04 50.

04 47 53

1.6

P

Okay, we're through the peak g now.

04 47 55

4.0

CC

Ah, Seven, this is Cape. What's your general condition? Are you feeling pretty well?

04 47 59

2.8

P

My condition is good, but that was a real fireball, boy.

04 48 05

3.2

P

I had great chunks of that retropack breaking off all the way through.

04 48 08

2.1

CC

Very good; it did break off, is that correct?

04 48 11

3.4

P

Roger. Altimeter off the peg indicating 80 thousand.

04 48 15

1.7

CC

Roger, reading you loud and clear.

04 48 17

0.3

P

Roger.

 

 

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