50 years ago today, John Glenn blasted off of the pad at Cape Canaveral’s at Launch Complex 14 to orbit the Earth three times and splash down in the Atlantic 88.5 minutes later.
There are movies and documentaries about the launch and the flight that give you more detail, but this clip with Walter Cronkite, who for many became the voice of the space age, captures the emotion that everyone watching, or with a transistor radio pressed to their ear, felt.
Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had orbited the Earth nearly a year earlier, on April 12, 1961, as well as the first man in space, but it happened far away, and not on TV, so it didn’t have the same impact. Somehow I doubt that Russian kids got to listen and cheer for their hero until after it was all over, which seems a shame.
Maybe, even probably, you were born years after, when men had walked on the moon and we had largely turned away from the exploration of space. If so, or even if not, take a minute to pretend you don’t know all that. Pretend that you’re seven or ten, or twelve years old and watching it for the first time.
Godspeed, John Glen. Godspeed to all who came after, and who are yet to come.
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