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Mercury-Atlas 6 Press Conference (1962)


Sound | 1962

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  •  President Barack Obama awarded astronaut John Glenn the Medal of Freedom in 2012 for his historic flight. 
  •  Philip Kaufman’s The Right Stuff (1983) dramatizes the progression towards the first manned orbit of Earth. Glenn is played by actor Ed Harris. 
  •  A reporter asks astronaut Donald “Deke” Slayton about his future in the manned space program. Slayton was scheduled to pilot Mercury-Atlas 7, but was relieved from the assignment in August 1959 after the discovery of a heart condition. He was officially grounded on September 18, 1962, making him the only Mercury Seven astronaut to not fly during Project Mercury. He remained an active member of the NASA space program, however, serving as the Coordinator of Astronaut Activities at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston as well as the Assistant Director for Flight Crew Operations. NASA doctors restored Slayton to full flight status on March 13, 1972. Three years later, he flew his first and only spaceflight with the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.  
  •  USAF Lieutenant Colonel John “Shorty” Power steps in to answer a question. He served as NASA’s public affairs officer from 1959 to 1963. Powers popularized the expression "A-OK" and had a small acting career as himself in an episode of Dennis the Menace and the narrator of Way...Way Out (1966) with Jerry Lewis. 
  •  Glenn discusses his family moving to Houston following the mission. They did not stay there long, however. Glenn resigned from NASA in 1964 to run for U.S. Senate from his home state of Ohio.  
  •  Before he was selected to join the Mercury Seven, USAF Lieutenant Colonel Virgil "Gus" Grissom served as a jet instructor in Bryan. He flew two space missions: Mercury-Redstone 4 and Gemini 3. Grissom died along with his Apollo 1 crew members as a result of a fire during pre-launch testing on January 27, 1967.  
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This unedited KPRC-TV news footage captures a press conference following the successful completion of Mercury-Atlas 6, the first American orbital spaceflight. Also known after the name of its spacecraft, Friendship 7, the mission launched from Launch Complex 14 at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on February 20, 1962. Pilot John Glenn performed three orbits of the Earth before splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean just under five hours later. During the press conference, likely conducted at NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Glenn talks about the purpose of the mission and the future of the manned space program. Fellow Mercury Seven astronauts Gus Grissom and Deke Slayton as well as NASA public affairs officer John “Shorty” Powers also answer questions. Special thanks to Kevin Vela, Ellyn Puckett, and Michael Cadwaller for their help cataloging this film.
As the scope of the American space program grew, NASA’s Space Task Group realized it would need to expand into its own facility if it were to successfully land a man on the Moon. In 1961, the agency’s selection team chose a 1,000-acre cow pasture in Houston, Texas, as the proposed center’s location site, owing to its access to water transport and commercial jet service, moderate climate, and proximity to Rice University. In September 1963, the facility opened as the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC). 
The Center became the focal point of NASA’s manned spaceflight program, developing spacecraft for Projects Gemini and Apollo, selecting and training astronauts, and operating the Lunar Receiving Laboratory. Beginning with Gemini 4 in June 1965, MSC’s Mission Control Center also took over flight control duties from the Mercury Control Center at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. As a result, the facility managed all subsequent manned space missions, including those related to Projects Gemini and Apollo, the Apollo Applications Program, the Space Shuttle Orbiters, and the International Space Station.
In 1973, the MSC was renamed in honor of the late President and Texas native Lyndon B. Johnson. (As Senate Majority Leader, Johnson sponsored the 1958 legislation that established NASA.) The Center continues to lead NASA’s efforts in space exploration, training both American and international astronauts, managing missions to and from the International Space Station, and operating scientific and medical research programs.