On February 20, 1962, U.S. Marine Lieutenant Colonel John H. Glenn, Jr., became the first American to orbit the earth. Launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., Glenn made three 90-minute orbits of the earth in Friendship 7, radioing down to Earth, ‘Oh, that view is tremendous!’ The mission also provided important information about what it was like for an astronaut to be weightless for a long period of time. When the ship’s automatic altitude control system began to fail, Glenn, a decorated World War II pilot, took manual control for the rest of the flight. During Friendship 7‘s approach to Earth, Glenn saw some flaming material breaking off the capsule, but the parachute opened and the capsule landed safely in the Atlantic Ocean. Friendship 7‘s flight lasted four hours and 56 minutes. This picture shows Glenn entering his Mercury Friendship 7 capsule before launch on February 20, 1962.