KENNEDY SPACE CETER, Fla – It isn’t every day that you get to talk to an American legend. That, however, is exactly what the AmericaSpace team got to do on Friday, Feb. 17. None other than former Mercury astronauts – Senator John Glenn and Scott Carpenter chatted up their experiences 50 years ago when they became the first two Americans to reach orbit.
On Feb. 20, 1962, Glenn roared to orbit on top of an Atlas rocket in his spacecraft dubbed, Friendship 7. Three months later, Carpenter crawled into his Aurora 7 spacecraft and became the second American to reach orbit.
Both Glenn and Carpenter participated in a question-and-answer session at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex during an event to commemorate the accomplishments of the employees who made the dream of safely reaching and returning from orbit a reality.
The two surviving Mercury astronauts made sure to not only honor the workers that sent them to orbit, but also their five, departed, compatriots. The “original seven” were comprised of Glenn, Carpenter, Alan Shepard, Virgil “Gus’ Grissom, Wally Schirra, “Deke” Slayton and Gordon Cooper.
Carpenter noted that times have indeed changed for both the space program as well as the nation since the time when he traveled into space – and not for the better.
“We have gone from a ‘can do’ nation – to a ‘can’t do’ nation and I really miss being a citizen of the ‘can do’ nation.”