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Space pioneer John Glenn honored 50 years after historic flight

Hundreds of NASA workers jammed a space center auditorium to mark the 50th anniversary of John Glenn's historic flight, to see and hear the first American to circle the Earth.

Image

In this Feb. 20, 1962 photo provided by NASA, astronaut John Glenn climbs into the Friendship 7 space capsule atop an Atlas rocket at Cape Canaveral, Fla. for the flight which made him the first American to orbit the earth.

NASA/AP

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John Glenn fever gripped Cape Canaveral on Friday, just as it did half a century ago when America was on the verge of launching its first man into orbit.

Hundreds of NASA workers jammed a space center auditorium, three days before the 50th anniversary of Glenn's historic flight, to see and hear the first American to circle the Earth. Then journalists got a crack at Glenn, ever patient at describing his momentous flight aboard Friendship 7 and the decades since.

The 90-year-old Glenn was joined at both events by Scott Carpenter, 86, the only other survivor of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, as the weekend of anniversary festivities began.

Milestones in U.S. manned spaceflight

Glenn said he recollects the flight so often it seems like it took place just a couple weeks ago. He and Carpenter visited their old launch pad, Complex 14; it was from the blockhouse there that Carpenter called out "Godspeed John Glenn" before the rocket ignited.

The national attention then was "almost unbelievable," Glenn said, adding that he and his colleagues learned to live with the acclaim "or tried to anyway."

The early 1960s were a magical time in Cape Canaveral and adjoining Cocoa Beach, Carpenter said. "Everyone was behind us. The whole nation was behind what we were doing," he said.

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