National Geographic : 1962 Jun
Gingerly Easing Through the Hatch, Glenn Shoehorns Into His Spacecraft Time: 6:03 a.m.-3 hours and 44 minutes before lift-off on February 20, 1962. "United States" and flag would have identified Glenn in case he landed on foreign soil. The astronaut selected the name "Friendship"; the "7" refers to America's seven spacemen. Plastic prevents scratching of corrugated shingles below hatch and single window. Finger-tip lights, powered by batteries on gloves, proved valuable during periods of darkness in orbit. Chest mirror reflected instrument panel for flight photographs. Mirrors on wrists enabled pilot to see any where in capsule with minimum movement. ard says, to let Glenn know he is on course. 00:00:55 Vibration is more intense; the whole rocket shudders. The spacecraft en counters its maximum air resistance. It plows out of the atmosphere like a ship breaking through high seas. Out the window the pilot sees a contrail-white condensation. 00:01:12 We're smoothing out some now, Glenn informs the Mercury Control Center as he feels a noticeable reduction in vibra tion. Those on the ground are as relieved as he is that the spacecraft has come through this period of maximum stress. 00:01:26 Next problem is to make sure that 796 the cabin air pressure holds at the proper level. The needle drops past 7 pounds per square inch, then slows to a stop. Cabinpres sure is holding at 6.1 okay, he announces. 00:01:56 Glenn feels the weight of his chest pressing him back into his seat as acceleration builds to the point where he will weigh close to half a ton. It is not too bothersome-he has often experienced it on the centrifuge, and his couch is specially molded for comfort. 00:02:12 Acceleration drops off rapidly as two of the three main Atlas engines cut off. The spacecraft shakes for a moment as the spent engines are unhooked and slide away.