February 20: On this day in history

On February 20, 1962, John Glenn orbited the Earth three times aboard his Friendship 7 spacecraft in just under five hours.

The Soviet Union had dominated the Space Race in the late 1950s and early 1960s with a two significant firsts: first satellite launch (Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957) and first man in space (Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 1961).

America decided to step up its game. Under President John F. Kennedy, the government had set itself lofty goals – including a manned Moon landing later in the decade.

Glenn, the man selected to be the first American to orbit the Earth, had been a distinguished World War II fighter pilot and in 1957 had made the first supersonic transcontinental flight across America.

After his NASA career ended, Glenn became a politician, serving as a senator for Ohio from 1974 until 1999.

Courtesy of OnThisDay.com