Friendship 7 50th Anniversary

Uploaded by NASAtelevision on 13.02.2012

Godspeed, John Glenn. When I was a kid, there was no such word as
astronaut. I thought it'd be great to be a pilot sometime,
but I never-- we didn't have enough money to take--for me
to take flight lessons.
When I was growing up, my dad--one time we drove by a
field where there were--was a plane, an old biplane, open
cockpit, taking people up for rides. And so, my dad and I
went up in that airplane. And I was only about eight or nine
years old, and I thought that was neat. That was the first
time I'd ever been in the air. And to look down on all the
houses and the people and cars and things was really
something. Before World War II, I was in college by that
time, and there was a notice on the physics bulletin
board that you could take pilot lessons, the government would
pay for them, you'd get your private pilot's license. And
it was called Civilian Pilot Training, CPT program. And
so, that's what I went through and got my private pilot's license
in the spring of '41.
If you talk to him, he had a pretty humble upbringing
in Ohio. And he went into the Marine Corps at an early age
and got married at an early age. Matter of fact, he and
Annie, I think, shared cribs in the same hospital room when
they were born, believe it or not. Pearl Harbor occurred at the end of '41. I
dropped out of college in the middle of my junior year
and started flight training, and then was overseas later on for
a year during World War II.
He was in World War II as a fighter pilot. He was in
Korea as a fighter pilot. And then, he was a test pilot for
the Marine Corps. So, he had a humble upbringing just like the
rest of--he was a very down to earth person.
NASA finally got interested in sending somebody into
space. It was such a new thing. It was all very, very secret
at that time. In the midst of the Cold War, here the Soviet
Union and the United States poised to annihilate each
other with nuclear weapons. And it was an extraordinary time.
Of course, we were all given orders, which were
supposed to be secret, to come to Washington and to not
discuss the reason for those orders with anyone, even our
wives. Being a kid growing up on the east coast of
Florida at that time, as all of these astronauts, as
we were trying to catch up with the Soviets who had shocked
our pants off of us. The Russians, I think, were pretty confident
that they were far ahead. After all, they had launched
Yuri Gagarin in April of 1961. We had launched Alan Shepard,
but it was on a suborbital flight. President Kennedy had made
the announcement about going to the moon within
a decade at the end of May, but the Soviets didn't take that
very seriously. In fact, they went off and launched their
next cosmonaut. So, it was a brand new experience for everybody.
Nobody had been through this before. We went through a long
selection process and--which included physical and
psychological and all--every measurement they knew how to make
on the human body, I guess. Those early pioneers at Cape were something
else, because not only were they flying by the seat
of their pants, many times designing rockets on the back of
an envelope, but all the time they were swatting mosquitoes
and dodging rattlesnakes and alligators.
So, when we finally came down on--we were finally
selected, we were very happy to be there and felt honored to
be among the seven to be selected. The original seven were, of course, figures
that were revered, the engineers who were doing the
designs, the launch crews who were doing the day in and day out
work, and then the crew shimmying in, into those little tin cans
called capsules that were taking us into the heavens.
The mission was planned to come back and land on the
water. And so, we did a lot of water training on it, too.
So, what would happen if you had a leak in the spacecraft
after you once hit the water, what the impact would be. If
you're underwater, could you get out? We went in the pool, turned the spacecraft
with us in it- -and it's only a one-person spacecraft at
that time. But, they turned the thing upside down, then you
had to escape from--get out underwater and come up. And
training like that, that tried to train for every possible contingency.
But, what if you had to land in the Outback in Australia,
which is one of the places where we went up over the--one of
the tracks of the spacecraft, or across the jungle area of
Papua New Guinea, for instance, or southwest Africa, Namibia
and that area? We trained for all of that, too, with desert
training where we went out, were isolated in the desert, and
how you would survive for several days before they could pick
you up. We trained in jungle training, went down in Panama
and Columbia and went in the high canopy jungle and survived
for three days. And so, we did a lot of training that way
so that if you ever--it was ever necessary to come back to
Earth on an emergency landing, that you'd be able to survive
whatever the conditions were, whether you came down in
the jungle or the desert or the land someplace.
When I got to fly the shuttle, I knew what to expect.
I think when John flew his first flight, he didn't know what
to expect. And that's a huge difference. Both we and the Soviets at that time were
using boosters that had been designed as ICBMs,
intercontinental ballistic missiles, for the launch of nuclear
weapons around the--whatever the target might be.
Well, then when it came time to put a man into space, we
didn't have a separate booster designed just to do that. We
used the ICBMs that had been used for a different purpose.
That was a big day for America. The Soviets had not
only beat us into space with Sputnik, but then they had beat
us into orbit with Gagarin before we ever even got Alan
Shepard up into sub-orbit. We were behind in the manned space program
as far as ability to lift weight because we had been
better than they were technically. We had been able to make
small nuclear weapons, lighter nuclear weapons, and they
had to design a booster for their great big Hiroshima type
weapons. And so, here when they used that booster for a space
program, they could put up a huge amount of weight where
we couldn't. Ours were smaller boosters because we had miniaturized
nuclear weapons.
When John first launched, he was on a brand new rocket,
never been to orbit before. We didn't know how humans would
react in zero G. We didn't know whether they'd be able to
eat. Some people said their eyes wouldn't focus, all kinds of
crazy stories that John told me that they told him, before he
launched, to expect. He didn't believe any of those and most
of them were not true. But, we just didn't know back then.
The day that I finally went, that was my--that was the
third time I had actually suited up and been on top, been
locked in and ready to go. And it was cancelled once by
problems with the spacecraft and another time by weather.
But, when you finally get in the thing and you're ready
to go, you're very, very busy. People think you're in there
contemplating great thoughts. And I think it's more like that
you're in there, as I was, double checking all the
instrumentation and talking to the people on the ground crew
to make sure that everything was okay for launch.
Godspeed, John Glenn. Six, five, four, three, two, one, zero.
Roger. The clock is operating. We're underway. Hear you loud and clear. Roger. We're programming
at roll okay.
Godspeed, John Glenn. I was in the blockhouse when he
was and the last to speak to him before liftoff. Gus and Al
had both done that, but they weren't riding on this big, big
fuel tank that had enough--had the ability to give him more
speed than what Al and Gus had had. They didn't have enough
to coast all the way around the world. They just had enough
to go up a little ways and fall back to Earth. People look at all this fire and smoke on
the ground and they think you're under huge stress inside.
You're not. The thrust is just barely greater than the
weight of the spacecraft, so you lift off very gently. And
the more the fuel burns out there, the lighter it becomes,
and the thrust is still high. So, the farther you go up here
on this entry into space, the more G's you feel inside.
Roger. Zero G and I feel fine. Capsule is turning
around. Oh, that view is tremendous. Roger. Turnaround has started.
Roger. Capsule turning around. And I could see the
booster during turnaround just a couple of hundred yards
behind me. It was beautiful. Roger, Seven. You have a go, at least seven
orbits. Roger. Understand go for at least seven orbits.
When I was inserted into orbit, the first thing it did
was the spacecraft turned around so the heat shield was
forward in the direction that I was going. That was for
protection. And I could look back across northern Florida
and clear back along the Gulf Coast. And it was a beautiful
view and quite impressive, too. First time I'd ever
seen any--from that kind of altitude, for sure.
And you're going almost five miles a second to stay up
there in orbit, which takes you around the Earth in about an
hour and 29 minutes, about every hour and a half you're going
around the Earth. So, it's--you have very short days and
short nights, about 45 minutes each. Here on Earth you look at a sunset or a sunrise,
you see the oranges and yellows and reds. But, you
don't see the other end of the spectrum, red, orange, yellow,
green, blue, indigo, violet, right across the spectrum.
And that blue, indigo, violet, you see that kind of luminous
quality in the color just as sunset and sunrise in space.
So, it makes it different than anything you've seen here on
Earth. This is Friendship Seven. I'll try to describe
what I am in here. I am in a big mass of some very small
particles that are brilliantly lit up like they're luminescent.
I never saw anything like it. They around a little--they
are coming by the capsule and they look like little stars,
a whole shower of them coming by.
A lot of brilliant, well-trained engineers and
scientists on the ground heard John say, "I can see things out
there that look like fireflies." This large body of expert
intellect was all of a sudden wondering, "Are there living
creatures out there," because John called them fireflies.
They do have a different motion, though, from me,
because they swirl around the capsule and then depart back the
way that I am looking. Are you receiving? Over.
I had heard nothing hit the spacecraft or no malfunction
I could see from the instrumentation. And so, it was a big
surprise to look out and see all of these little flakes. And
they--fireflies is exactly what they looked like. That's the
way I described them. On the next flight, Scott Carpenter tapped
the side of the spacecraft and a whole shower of them
went off. They were flakes of frost that came from the
water that the cabin and heat exchangers exhausted, and
they became inanimate pieces of ice. And it was an interesting
discovery. I don't know that anybody ever fully explained
why the luminous color, though, right at sunrise as
the first light of sun came on the little particles, because
that was the strange part of it. But, that was very surprising
and it didn't pose any danger. But, it was there at each sunrise.
Atlantic Ship, this is Friendship Seven. I wish you
would pass to Cape. I let the capsule drift around to the
180-degree position and I am having to reorient at present
time. When I am all lined with the horizon in the periscope,
my attitude indications now are way off. My roll indicates
three-zero degrees right, my yaw indicates three-five right,
and pitch indicates plus four-zero. I repeat, plus four-zero
when I am in orbit attitude. Over. Everything worked perfectly, and then there
was an indication that John's heat shield was loose,
which meant that after the third orbit and on the de-orbit
that he would burn up, if it was.
Well, I certainly wanted to make it a two-way trip and
come back, of course. But, the automatic control system had
had a malfunction. That meant that I was flying manually. I
cut all the systems back on so that I was operating as well as
the automatic systems during reentry. That used more fuel
that way, but had just enough to do that. It's the first thing I actually remember in
my whole life, is sitting in front of our nice black
and white TV on the floor, because I had to get real close
because, you know, I was really excited about this, watching
the John Glenn flight.
And the thing I remember most about it is sitting there
worrying about whether or not John Glenn was going to survive
when that heat shield was, you know, getting loose. Was it
really loose? Was he going to, you know, burn up when he
reentered? It was a very exciting thing, and I think that's
probably what inspired me to be interested in space and how I
wound up becoming NASA Chief Historian in the end.
When you land, you do a de-orbit burn, which-- essentially you turn the vehicle backwards
and you slow the vehicle down just enough that it can drop
back into the atmosphere. In the case of a capsule, it can't
really fly like an airplane. It mostly just falls straight.
During reentry, then, instead of jettisoning that retro
pack here and getting it off so I had a clean heat shield for
reentry, we left that on so that the heat shield would be held
in place until the aerodynamic force of reentry would tend to
hold the heat shield in place. Now, that made for an interesting--well, the
reentry was going to be interesting anyway, but it was
even more interesting because, as I would glance occasionally
out the little window, I could see chunks of that
retro pack breaking up and coming back by the window.
My condition is good, but that was a real fireball, boy.
I had great chunks of that retro pack breaking off all the way
through. Rocking quite a bit. I may still have some of that
pack on. I can't damp it, either. And I couldn't be absolutely certain then
whether it was the heat shield breaking up or the retro pack.
And obviously it was the retro pack or I wouldn't be here
today. But, anyway, it was a--that kind of reentry was
the second problem we had in addition to the control system failure.
If you listen to the tapes, it's pretty clear that he
knows that there's something going on there and it's not the
normal procedure, because he knew the procedures really well.
He knew that retro pack should have been gone. We are recommending that you leave the retro
package on through the entire reentry.
This is Friendship Seven. What is the reason for this?
Do you have any reason? Over. Not at this time. That is the judgment of
Cape Flight. Roger.
His odds of not surviving this was about one in six.
So, it was an extremely high risk, unknown effort that they
were going into, having never done it before. Holding the retro pack on there would actually
keep the heat shield in place. There was reasonable
assumption that it might actually help. But, then again, it might
also, you know, wobble around and knock it off too,
as well, I suppose. So, there was probably a lot of concern about
that. But, it seemed like probably the only decent course
of action that they had available to them and a reasonable
thing. As he went into the radio blackout period
on reentry, the last thing you could hear was John humming
the Battle Hymn of the Republic.
Main chute is on green. Chute is out in reef condition
at 10,800 feet and beautiful chute. Chute looks good. On 02
emergency and the chute looks very good. The rate of descent
has gone to about four-two feet per second. The chute looks
very good. My condition is good. It's a little hot in here,
however. Over. The Mercury capsule, you have to remember,
is a really small thing. So, when he's reentering, he
wouldn't have been very far from all that heat that was being
generated against that ablated heat shield. So, I imagine it
might have gotten pretty warm in there. And, of course, it would
have been a pretty rough ride as well because you're,
you know, going through a tremendous change in speed, in altitude,
and G forces.
So, all those things combined together, it must have been
an interesting ride coming down. And, of course, nobody had
done it before from that speed, from orbital speed. So, you
know, the later astronauts had the benefit of John Glenn's
information about how it went. But, he would have been the
first to do it, and it might have been an interesting ride.
Coming out of the blackout period and saying, "Houston,
this is Friendship Seven," and of course the nation went nuts.
The world went nuts. Later on, on the ground after they got the
spacecraft back and ran tests on it, they found that
these two signals that went down to the ground that had indicated
a loose heat shield were not--they were faulty signals.
This is Friendship Seven standing by for impact. Remain in capsule unless you have an overriding
reason for getting out. Over.
Roger. Friendship Seven. Friendship Seven getting
close. Standing by. There we go. Friendship Seven impact.
Rescue aids is manual. Friendship Seven, this is Steelhead. Hold
you in the water. What is your condition? Over.
Roger. My condition okay. Does the capsule look like
it's okay? Over. Friendship Seven, reference your last, affirmative.
Capsule looks good from here. Ready to effect recovery in
approximately four minutes. Over. Roger. Four minutes to recovery. My condition
is good.
A destroyer that came alongside and put a cable down and
a davit, and picked me up and set the spacecraft on the deck
of the ship. And I blew the side hatch and climbed out, then
was taken over by helicopter. I lifted off later and went
over to the carrier, and the--then flew that night into Grand
Turk. And we spent three days debriefing with the controllers
and engineers that came out there for the debriefing sessions.
There was a great sense of togetherness and marvelous
accomplishment that we all felt throughout that period.
They wanted to have celebrations in Washington. And
there was a speech to a combined meeting of Congress, the
Senate and House meeting together. And spoke to them and met
with the President. And then, they had a New York tickertape
parade that was a--that was quite an experience. It was like
a snowstorm of paper coming down. And somebody told me not long ago that that
was the biggest tickertape parade that there ever
will be. And I said, "No, there's always going to be some
bigger tickertape parade." And they said no, because back then
you still had tickertape and you still had a lot of paper
stuff that's not used in offices now.
And so, now when the--they have a tickertape parade in
New York, they--the maintenance people will gather up a bundle
of paper and take it up on the roof and toss it over. And the
buildings in New York now are built so you can't open the
windows even to throw things out. And plus, there isn't the
same kind of paper in the offices now that we're in the
computer time as there were back then. So, there was--so, they measured the tonnage
of what the street cleaners pick up after something like
that. So, I don't now whether that set a record that'll
be there forever or not. I have no idea.
It was a total resounding success. And it was a great,
great honor and pleasure to be a part of such a marvelous and
successful program. And then, President Clinton gave him the chance
to fly again. See, President Kennedy wouldn't let
John go because he was too much of a national treasure. And so,
all of those years later, then President Clinton says,
"John, I want you to go back into space." I'm sure John was tugging
on his coattail.
So, I was very, very surprised to find out that they
wanted me to go fly this mission, the huge privilege for me to
get a chance to do this and to go fly with this living legend.
When he came back in, one of the first things I noticed
is that he came back into the space program like he'd never
left it, like he hadn't forgotten anything. Time had
advanced, but he understood all the principles of spaceflight,
how to do it, what to do, how to train. At the time, he was holding down two jobs.
He was training for our flight. He was also still
in the United States Senate. So, he would run back and forth
to Washington, DC for different meetings and hearings and
votes, and then he'd run back and train. He kept up a brutal,
brutal schedule that I don't know as I could survive, and
I’m a lot younger than he is.
Then he had a chance to see and really soak in the
sights that he never got a chance to dwell on in his three
orbits. And if anybody deserved to go at age 77 and to show
how the human body, at that age, can adapt, well, John was the
one that deserved to go. A lot of people think of John as an astronaut.
Those of us that are--with similar backgrounds think
of him as a test pilot, may think of him as a fighter
pilot, you know, a former Marine, I'm sure as most of his buddies
from the Marine Corps consider him. And some of us consider
him a Senator or a politician.
I think his legacy is in all of those areas, because,
quite frankly, he's excelled in all of those areas. He'll be
probably always remembered or be most famous for his role as
an astronaut. But, I--when I think of John, I don't think of
astronaut. I think of all these other things that are
associated with John. The greatest compliment I could give to John
is that he and Annie are the people you want to live
next door to. His legacy really is as an example of, quite frankly,
what an American should be.
John Glenn is the all-American boy who became the all-
American hero that became the all-American public servant.