Thursday, February 20, 2003

Ohio Moments

John Glenn first American in orbit


On Feb. 20, 1962, Ohioan John Glenn blasted off into space aboard the Friendship 7 - becoming the first American to orbit the Earth. He circled the globe three times. Glenn was born in Cambridge, Ohio, in 1921 and received a degree in engineering from Muskingum College in New Concord. He was a fighter pilot during World War II and the Korean War, entering the astronaut program in 1959. His historic flight didn't go without a hitch. The autopilot failed, and the capsule veered slightly off course. That forced Glenn po pilot the spacecraft. Then control sensors indicated that the heat shield - designed to keep the capsule from burning up during re-entry into Earth's atmosphere - was loose. Retrorockets affixed to the craft were supposed to slow down the capsule for re-entry, then be jettisoned after firing. Instead, Mission Control ordered Glenn to keep the retrorocket pack, hoping its strap would hold the heat shield in place. As Glenn struggled to maintain control of the spacecraft, he watched fiery chunks of the rockets fly past the window as they broke up. But the heat shield held, and Glenn was hailed as a hero.

Rebecca Goodman

E-mail or call (513) 768-8361.

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