COLUMBUS, Ohio --
February 20 marks the 50th anniversary of John Glenn's historic orbit around the earth.
The New Concord, Ohio, native sat down with Fox 8's Stefani Schaefer and told her he remembers that day like it was just weeks ago.
"We were on the cutting edge of technology. People ask me how many computers I had on board, the answer is zero. The computers were in the control center." Glenn, a former Marine Corps helicopter pilot serving in two wars, says there was a bit of competition among the group of Friendship 7, as everyone wanted to be on that early flight. But once the decision was made that he would be the one to orbit the earth in the Mercury capsule, everyone banded together and made it a success.
Of course we hear of the success of the great orbit, but there were some intense moments that happened during the mission. After the first orbit, one of the automatic thrusters began using too much fuel. "Instead of waiting a couple of orbits to see how this was going to work out, I went to manual flight where I could control it."
Then, after the second orbit, Mission Control received a signal that the heat shield was loose. Glenn and the entire crew knew this could be disastrous. The capsule would have burned up upon re-entry. Immediate changes were made that saved the mission.
Glenn went on to orbit earth three times in a mission that lasted four hours, 55 minutes and 23 seconds--from launch to impact.
An interesting part of the mission, that not a lot of people know about, is the story about the "City of Lights." The people of Perth, Australia, knew that Glenn would be passing by their town in the capsule, and they wanted to make sure John Glenn spotted them. "It was a beautiful clear night," Glenn recounted. "I was able to see the lights of Perth and Rockingham." The city repeated this tribute when Glenn returned to space in 1998.
Glenn splashed down in the vicinity of Grand Turk Island as Americans were glued to their television sets. His successful mission renewed the nation's hope in the space program.
After retiring from NASA, Glenn entered politics. He served 24 years in the United States Senate.
On October 29, 1998, Glenn made another famous return to space--this time setting a new record as the oldest person in space. The 9-day mission was complete with 134 earth orbits.
Glenn, now 90, is as active as ever. He helps run the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at Ohio State University. He holds an adjunct professorship at the John Glenn School and OSU's Department of Political Statistics. His childhood sweetheart, his 92-year-old wife, Annie, also works with OSU's Speech Therapy students.