John Glenn Dead at 95 and Ties to San Diego


Dec 8, 2016 (San Diego) Astronaut John Glenn died at the age of 95. He was the first American to achieve orbital flight. This mission was launched on August 27, 1961, and it was the first mission to use an Atlas rocket. The previous missions used Redstone rockets which had less thrust.

Here is where the connection to San Diego. Those Atlas rockets were built in San Diego. They were used by both the Space Program, both the Mercury Program, which John Glenn was part off, and it was a response to Yury Gagarin achieving orbital flight a few months before.

This was the height of the cold war, and the Soviet Union took an early lead in the race to space. Gagarin’s flight shocked the nation and President John F Kennedy vowed to put humans on the moon before the end of the decade. This was a decade filled with both successful and unsuccessful flights, and the loss of some Astronauts.

Friendship 7 could have ended in such a disaster. On the way back to Earth the sensors gave false readings. The heat shield seemed to be failing. It did not and Glenn was recovered off Bermuda by the USS Noa.

After his career with NASA was over, Colonel Glenn ran for the United States Senate and later flew a mission with the NASA again. This was on board the Discovery Space Shuttle at 77. Like all the astronauts from the early NASA program, Glen first few for the military. He flew 186 combat missions in World War II, and later flew in Korea and Vietnam. He made the transition from piston driven aircraft to early jets and was considered one of the best and the brightest.

His political career including three terms in the United States Senate as well as a failed bid for the White House. He flew aircraft late into his life. He has, with Neil Armstrong, Charles Lindberg, and the Wright Brothers, been enshrined into American, and indeed global, aviation history.


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2 replies

  1. Wow. My father, Phil Genser, was the engineer at Convair/General Dynamics here who designed the flight trajectory that put Glenn into orbit and brought him safely home. Dad was known as “Mr. Atlas” at General Dynamics. He also designed the flight paths for all the Atlas, Mercury and Gemini flights as well as the unmanned Apollo flights….

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