“Zero-G and I feel fine. The capsule is turning around. Oh, that view is tremendous.” – John Glenn
February 20, 1962, was a day of massive success for NASA and the United States in the “space race” that was taking place at the time with the Soviet Union.
“John Glenn, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps, was among the seven men chosen by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1959 to become America’s first astronauts. A decorated pilot, he flew nearly 150 combat missions during World War II and the Korean War. In 1957, he made the first nonstop supersonic flight across the United States, flying from Los Angeles to New York in three hours and 23 minutes.” And on Feb. 20, 1962 Glenn would be the first American to orbit the earth.”
“An Atlas launch vehicle propelled a Mercury spacecraft into Earth orbit and enabled Glenn to circle Earth three times. The flight lasted a total of 4 hours, 55 minutes, and 23 seconds before the Friendship 7 spacecraft splashed down in the ocean. Most major systems worked smoothly, and the flight was a great success as an engineering feat.
Glenn lifted off from the launch pad at Cape Canaveral at 9:47 a.m. on February 20, 1962. Some 100,000 spectators watched on the ground nearby and millions more saw it on television. After separating from its launching rocket, the bell-shaped Friendship 7 capsule entered into an orbit around Earth at a speed of about 17,500 miles per hour. Smoothing into orbit, Glenn radioed back, “Capsule is turning around. Oh, that view is tremendous.”
The Friendship 7 Mission: A Major Achievement and a Sign of More to Come
“This Mercury-Atlas (MA) 6 mission also reestablished NASA and the U.S. as a strong contender in the space race with the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union had launched the world’s first spacecraft, Sputnik, in October 1957 and had also sent the first human, Yuri Gagarin, into space on April 1961. NASA responded by sending the first American, Alan Shepard, into space in May 1961, but Shepard’s flight was only a suborbital lob, whereas Gagarin had orbited Earth. With Glenn’s orbital mission, NASA was finally able to pull back even with the Soviets.
The flight was the culmination of a tremendous amount of work in a relatively short time. On October 7, 1958, the newly formed NASA had announced Project Mercury, its first major undertaking. The objectives were threefold: to place a piloted spacecraft into orbital flight around Earth, observe human performance in such conditions, and recover the human and the spacecraft safely. Despite Shepard’s successful first flight, many questions had still remained about how Americans could survive and function in space.
The success of the Friendship 7 mission enabled NASA to accelerate further its efforts with Project Mercury. During less than five years, from Mercury’s start to finish, more than two million people from government and industry pooled their skills and experience to produce and manage the Nation’s first six piloted spaceflights. Mercury flights demonstrated that people could survive in microgravity for over a day without deterioration of normal physiological functions.
Mercury also set the stage for Projects Gemini and Apollo during the 1960s and all later U.S. human spaceflight activities. Thus, the MA-6 mission of Friendship 7 was both a capstone event and the beginning of many more achievements in human spaceflight for NASA.”
Thousands lined up today to honor hometown hero Wally Funk during a parade down Historic Main Street and a presentation on Peace Plaza at Grapevine Main Station. 82-year-old Funk was honored for her pioneering ride on Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin ‘New Shepard’ suborbital space tourism rocket.
Young and old alike were present holding signs that read “Fly, Wally, Fly” and other words of support for Funk. Along the half mile stretch from the top end of Main Street to Peace Plaza at Grapevine Main Station, crowds lined the sidewalks and rushed up to the vintage Cadillac Funk rode in as she passed by offering praise and support. Upon arriving at Peace Plaza, hundreds more waited in anticipation of the continued celebration.
The parade included the members of National Space Society of North Texas; Frontier Brigade Band; Wally Funk; Mayor William D. Tate; Members of the 501 st Star Garrison North Texas Squad in full Star Wars costume; City Councilmembers Sharron Rogers, Leon Leal and Duff O’Dell; Blue Origin Vice President of New Shepard Mission and Flight Operations, Audrey Powers; and Head of the New Shepard Program, Steve Bennett.
During the presentation on Peace Plaza, representatives from Blue Origin and others spoke about Funk. Mayor William D. Tate presented a personal message of appreciation and a proclamation from the City of Grapevine announcing August 7, 2021 as Wally Funk Day.
Funk addressed the crowd and spoke from the heart as she shared her appreciation for the overwhelming support from friends and her hometown community. An ice cream social was held following the presentation and commemorative replica lapel pins like the one Funk wore into space and Astronaut Ice Cream, donated by Space Center Houston, were handed out to attendees.
ABOUT WALLY FUNK
On July 20, 2021 Funk made history by being the oldest person at 82 years old to rocket into space. She has been a pioneer in aerospace and a trailblazer for women in aviation and space flight since 1960. She was the first female flight inspector for the Federal Aviation Administration, and later became the first female air safety inspector with the National Transportation Safety Board. Additionally, she has been the chief pilot for several aviation schools across the country and has taught more than 3,000 pilots how to fly.
In the Northern Hemisphere, we rank the August Perseids as our all-time favorite meteor shower. The Perseids take place during the lazy, hazy days of northern summer, when many families are on vacation. And what could be more luxurious than taking a siesta from the heat of the day and watching this summertime classic in the cool of night? Plus, 2021 is an excellent year for this shower! No matter where you live worldwide, the 2021 Perseid meteor shower will probably produce the greatest number of meteors on the mornings of August 11, 12 and 13. On the peak mornings in 2021 – in the early morning hours, when the most meteors will be flying – there’ll be no moon to ruin on the show. Here are a few tips to help you enjoy this shower…
WHO: The City of Grapevine will honor resident and hometown hero, Wally Funk, for her history-making experience aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin ‘New Shepard’ suborbital space tourism rocket.
WHAT:Parade and Community Celebration Parade along Historic Main Street immediately followed by a presentation by aviation leaders, peers, Grapevine Mayor William D. Tate and Grapevine City Council.
WHEN: Saturday, August 7, 2021, Parade Starts at noon
WHERE: Parade will head south on Main Street from Wall Street toward Dallas Road. Parade will culminate on Peace Plaza at Grapevine Main Station, 815 S. Main St., with remarks by dignitaries and Wally Funk.
In support of Grapevine resident Wally Funk‘s inaugural commercial space flight aboard Jeff Bezos’ rocket, Grapevine Mayor William D. Tate shared words of appreciation and support:
“It is a great day for Grapevine when one of our most treasured citizens participates in such a historic event. Wally Funk is a true trailblazer, and I and all of the residents of Grapevine are so proud of her as she propels not only herself but the entire world into the realm of commercial space travel.
In her 82 years her passion for air travel led her to experience many firsts. She was among the first wave of Americans, and the first group of women, who trained for space travel during the first space race. She is now the oldest and among the first to chart an unprecedented course for commercial space travel. Wally, as you fly into space, your Grapevine community flies with you, and we hope you have the ride of your life!,” said the Mayor.
ABOUT WALLY FUNK AND BLUE ORIGIN:
82 year-old Wally Funk is one of a dozen women who have come to be known as the “Mercury 13,” which were women who were passed over from going into space. Until now.
Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame, created private spaceflight company, Blue Origin, which is targeting today, July 20, 2021 for its first crewed “New Shepard” mission — a suborbital jaunt that will loft Bezos, his brother Mark, pioneering aviator Wally Funk and 18-year-old Oliver Daeman, who took the place of a still-mysterious person who paid $28 million for his or her seat in an online auction but pulled out of the July 20 flight due to scheduling conflicts, according to Blue Origin.
Blue Origin announced Wally Funk, from Grapevine, Texas, will soar atop Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket, inside a capsule, as an “honored guest.”
Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos has chosen an early female aerospace pioneer — an 82-year-old pilot denied astronaut wings decades ago because of her gender — to rocket into space with him in just three weeks.
The company announced Thursday that Wally Funk will be aboard the July 20 launch from West Texas, flying in the capsule for the 10-minute hop as an “honored guest.” She’ll join Bezos, his brother and the winner of a charity auction, as the first people to ride a New Shepard rocket, named for Mercury 7 astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American in space.
Funk is among the so-called Mercury 13 women who went through astronaut training in the 1960s, but never made it to space — or even NASA’s astronaut corps — because they were female. Back then, all of the NASA astronauts were military test pilots and male.
In an Instagram video posted by Bezos, Funk said she feels “fabulous” about being asked to launch.
“Nothing has ever gotten in my way,” she noted. “They said, ‘Well, you’re a girl, you can’t do that.’ I said, ’Guess what, doesn’t matter what you are. You can still do it if you want to do it and I like to do things that nobody has ever done.”
Finding words is hard. The death at age 90 of Michael Collins, command-module pilot for Apollo 11, is the loss of a friend, an unswerving patriot and an intrepid explorer. Neil Armstrong and I were blessed to have had Mike as our crew mate on America’s first manned mission to the moon’s surface, in July 1969. No one is more responsible for our success—taking us out and bringing us home safely—than Mike.
What Mike gave our nation is hard to express. He was a fearless test pilot, inveterate scholar, cheerful crewmate; he was calm under pressure, self-disciplined, knew every detail of the Columbia command module. He was also a lifelong friend, focused on others and often hardest on himself.
Mike’s book, “Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journeys” (1974), is detailed and aptly named. A gifted writer, Mike put into words the extraordinariness of our shared experience—his, Neil’s, mine and our nation’s. He focused on the mission, team, nation and journey, less on himself.
Mike was the one who orbited the moon 30 times alone, focused on us, making sure we stayed close. He was the one who, on Gemini 10 in 1966, walked in space and proved orbital rendezvous with another spacecraft, a vital step in America’s eventual moon missions. And Mike was first among friends—gracious, self-deprecating and always quick with a smile.
Anyone who saw Apollo 13 can appreciate that sometimes all the advanced science and engineering utilized to get our brave men and women into space pales in comparison to the ingenuity often required to keep them there safely. Recently, the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) was alerted to a small air leak in the Zverzda module of the ISS. This area includes sleeping quarters, a kitchen, and a bathroom.
A specialist from the Russian Mission Control Center told a cosmonaut to use tea leaves in the microgravity environment to pinpoint the leaks. As the tea leaves were suspended in the environment, they were slowly drawn towards what was revealed to be a small crack in the hull of the module. The crack, which was measured at 0.2 mm in diameter, was found on an ISS wall. Once the crack was located, the crew used adhesive tape made of a temperature-resistant material to cover it, serving as a short-term fix.
Down the road, more durable equipment will be delivered to the ISS to help patch the crack and perform checks to ensure there are no additional leaks.
The NASA equivalent to duct tape is considered a temporary, but safe replacement. The current leak of 0.4 mm of mercury per day is significantly lower than the 0.5 mm/minute that would be needed to register as an emergency.
The Space Shuttle Columbia began a new era of human spaceflight when STS-1 lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 12, 1981, for the inaugural flight of the nation’s Space Shuttle Program. To mark the occasion, NASA is providing historical b-roll footage of the launch and landing as well as recently recorded soundbites from retired astronaut Bob Crippen.
Aboard the spacecraft were commander John W. Young and pilot Crippen. The flight was a test mission and the first time a shuttle was flown to space. Columbia lifted off at 7 a.m. from Launch Pad 39A and was NASA’s first crewed mission since the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975. The launch occurred 20 years to the day after the first human launch when cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited Earth in the Vostok 1 capsule on April 12, 1961. Columbia concluded STS-1 on April 14, 1981, with a touchdown at Edwards Air Force Base, California, after a 54-hour mission.
The mission objective was to demonstrate the safe launch into orbit and safe return of the orbiter and crew. The mission also verified the combined performance of the entire shuttle vehicle, orbiter, solid rocket boosters, and external tank. Payloads included the Developmental Flight Instrumentation (DFI) and the Aerodynamic Coefficient Identifications Package (ACIP) pallet containing equipment for recording temperatures, pressures, and acceleration levels at various points on the spacecraft.
Between the first launch in 1981 and the final landing on July 21, 2011, NASA’s space shuttle fleet – Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour – flew 135 missions, helped construct the International Space Station, and inspired generations.
As humanity’s first reusable spacecraft, the space shuttle pushed the bounds of discovery ever farther, requiring not only advanced technologies but the tremendous effort of a vast workforce.
Crippen spoke via computer for a recent episode of NASA’s Rocket Ranch podcast. During the interview, Crippen discusses his experience as STS-1 pilot, the spacecraft’s historic launch and landing, the discovery of missing heat tiles during the mission, and the shuttle program legacy. Soundbites from that interview, along with historical photos and b-roll footage, can be found on NASA image site using the links below.
For videos, click HERE and HERE. All photos and videos are courtesy of NASA.