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Ear to the Ground

Early Astronauts Were Lucky to Survive the Unknown

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Posted on Feb 20, 2012
NASA

On Feb. 20, 1962, John Glenn became the first American (and second human) to orbit the Earth. In this image, Glenn enters his Friendship 7 capsule with assistance from technicians to begin his historic flight.

Fifty years ago, John Glenn sat in a little metal capsule rocketing around the Earth, while down on the ground NASA scientists thought his eyes might change shape.

Former astronaut Steve Lindsey, who flew in the much more advanced space shuttle, said Glenn’s chances of surviving that mission were akin to a game of Russian roulette.

It was the great unknown in those days and NASA wasn’t sure how the human body would cope to prolonged exposure to microgravity. Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had already orbited the Earth once and two Americans had poked their heads into the void, all surviving relatively intact. But Glenn was up there for five hours and he had to make a tricky landing.

NASA also wasn’t certain where Glenn would end up, and, MSNBC reports, the spaceman learned a few aboriginal greetings should he drop down in Australia:

“You land, and the side blows off, and out steps this thing in a silver suit. You’re going to be either like the god-king or dead pretty quick,” Glenn said. “So I wanted a message for these people.”

So linguists at the Library of Congress translated a basic message of peace and friendship for Glenn, arming him with a few phrases in various aboriginal languages should the need arise.

—PZS

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By gerard, February 21, 2012 at 12:24 pm Link to this comment

Now we are in another kind of “time capsule” from which we have to escape safely.  That capsule is “the America First” prison of national conceit that keeps us spending billions of dollars on militarized authoritarianism—massively destructive wars against others for resources and profits, making enormous wreckage out of other people’s lives, and destroying our own souls in the
process.

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By doublestandards/glasshouses, February 21, 2012 at 11:31 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

His every move was watched and reported on for years afterwards.  When he slipped and fell at home in his bathtub the media played this up as a side effect of the weightlessness he experienced in space.

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By stand to reason, February 21, 2012 at 10:02 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Then it was on to his date with infamy in the keating 5 scandal
that kick started this financial terrorist attack that this country
and the planet is experiencing by subverting regulations of the
finance industry.

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By hawkny, February 20, 2012 at 7:50 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Yes, the risks were great but the rewards were even greater…

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