Astronaut John Glenn is the first American to orbit Earth in the Mercury 6 capsule on February 20, 1962. NASA makes available a video (above) to celebrate the occasion of the 50th anniversary.
Universe Today shares excerpt from Glenn memoir how Mercury 6 acquired nickname of Friendship 7:
“I set about naming the capsule. Al’s (Shepard) Freedom 7 had struck the right note. Gus (Grissom) in Liberty Bell 7, had been inspired by both patriotism and the capsule’s shape. I had several ideas, but I was trying very hard to keep Dave and Lyn (his children) involved and make them feel a part of my mission. I asked them if they would be willing to think about some names...They pored over a thesaurus and wrote dozens of names in a notebook. Then they worked them down to several possibilities, names and words including; Columbia, Endeavour, America, Magellan, we, hope, harmony, and kindness. At the top of the list was their first choice: Friendship. I was so proud of them. They had chosen perfectly.”
You can also read NASA Mercury Project to place event into historical context. Russia had launched successfully, by 1962, two flights into orbit with Yuri Gregarin in April, 1961 and Gherman Titov, who orbited 17 times in August, 1961. The Wikipedia entry communicates sense of importance to event:
"As the first American in orbit, Glenn was celebrated as a national hero, and received a ticker-tape parade reminiscent of that given for Charles Lindbergh. His fame and political attributes were noted by the Kennedys, and he became a personal friend of the Kennedy family. On February 23, 1962 President Kennedy escorted him in a parade to Hanger S at Canaveral Air Force station where he awarded Glenn with the NASA service medal."
Fifty years ago, John Glenn blasted off to famous words, "Godspeed, John Glenn."