July 18 – An Astronaut Is Born

Posted on July 18, 2013

Today is International Mandela Day, a day to celebrate the life and wisdom of Nelson Mandela, who once said, “We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference.” (See the link below for more on Mandela.)

It's Mandela's day because it is his birthday, but it is also the birthday of one of the most famous astronauts in U.S. history, John Glenn.

Here's what John Glenn once said: “It was quite a day. I don't know what you could say about a day in which you have seen four beautiful sunsets.”

FOUR sunsets in one day? I bet you can tell that Glenn said that after being in outer space!

John Glenn followed a career in the military as a fighter pilot by being a test pilot and one of the first American astronauts. He was THE first American to orbit the Earth, circling the globe three times in almost five hours. Here are some interesting facts about this historic flight:

  • The people in the town of Perth, Australia, turned on all their lights—house lights, car headlights, and of course streetlights—while Glenn was passing overhead. He said that he could clearly see the city from space, and Perth became known as the “City of Light”!

  • Glenn's spacecraft was called Friendship 7. He carried with him a note that read in several different languages, “I am a stranger. I come in peace. Take me to your leader and there will be a massive reward for you in eternity.” This note was to be used if the capsule splashed down in the remote South Pacific Ocean. (I'm not sure why the note had to clarify that Glenn was a stranger! Don't you think any people he encountered in the remote South Pacific would know that?)

  • An indicator said that Glenn's heat shield had come loose. There wasn't much that anyone could do—if the heat shield failed, the capsule would burn up—but the flight controllers had Glenn keep his retrorocket pack over the shield to try to keep it in place. Of course, the capsule splashed down safely. It turned out that the shield was fine, and the indicator was faulty!

When Glenn retired from NASA, he became a U.S. Senator for the state of Ohio for 25 years. At age 77, in 1998, Glenn went back into space—the oldest human ever to do so! He was part of a 9-day Space Shuttle program designed to measure effects of space travel on the elderly. Of course, the program was also perfect for research on the effects of space travel on the same person at two different points of life (his flights being 36 years apart!).

By the way, the City of Light, Perth, Australia, lived up to its name with all its lights turned on again for Glenn during that Shuttle mission! How nice!

Also on this date:

Anniversary of a perfect game 

Extreme Vehicle Day

Plan ahead:

Check out my Pinterest pages on July holidayshistorical anniversaries in July, and July birthdays.

And here are my Pinterest pages on August holidayshistorical anniversaries in August, and August birthdays.

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