In the early days of the Mercury program, John Glenn looked like the perfect astronaut. Tall with boyish good looks, he was always smiling and happy to share his love of family, country, and God with the media. (Left, the Mercury astronauts.)
America loved him, but he wasn’t the favourite among his fellow astronauts. He set himself apart as the one among them who wasn’t cool and laid back like a test pilot ought to be. He didn’t hide his eagerness to fly in space, and when he was passed over for the first launch, he fought to have the flight assignment changed. In the end, he was at the right place in the flight lineup at the right time to make the first orbital flight and secure his place in history. But it was never certain to be his flight, and it’s a very interesting story. Read the full article on Scientific American’s Guest Blog.
This picture of the Mercury astronauts was taken after they were introduced to the country in a press conference 0n April 9, 1959. From the left, they are Wally Schirra, Al Shepard, Gus Grissom, Deke Slayton, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, and Gordon Cooper. Look at the group dynamic. Glenn is the only one smiling; the rest look bored and uncomfortable being in the spotlight. On Glenn’s right, Slayton is visibly sizing him up.
During the press conference, Glenn emerged as excited and eager while the rest carried themselves like cool test pilots. Check out the press conference: part 1; part 2; part 3. You can watch the whole video and download a transcript of the press conference on NASA’s site commemorating the event. Here’s a great site that looks like it pulls early images of Glenn’s life from LIFE magazine.