Capsule, Mercury, MA-6

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Data Source
National Air and Space Museum
Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum
John H. Glenn, Jr.
McDonnell Aircraft Corp.
Credit Line
Transferred from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Skin & Structure: Titanium
Heat shield: Phenolic resin, fiberglass
Shingles: Nickel-steel alloy; berylium shingles removed
Overall: 92 × 75 in., 1930lb. (233.7 × 190.5cm, 875.4kg)
See more items in
National Air and Space Museum Collection
National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC
Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall
Country of Origin
United States of America
In this historic capsule, John H. Glenn Jr. became the first American to orbit the Earth. Glenn's flight was the third manned mission of Project Mercury, following two suborbital flights by astronauts in 1961. Glenn's three-orbit mission on February 20, 1962, was a sterling success, as he overcame problems with the automatic control system that would have ended an unmanned flight. But reentry was tense, as a faulty telemetry signal from the spacecraft indicated that the heat shield might be loose. Mission Control instructed Glenn not to jettison the retrorocket package after firing in order to better hold the heat shield in place. Glenn reentered successfully and splashed down in the Atlantic 4 hours, 55 minutes and 23 seconds after launch.
NASA transferred Friendship 7 to the Smithsonian Institution in 1963, which has exhibited it in buildings on the National Mall ever since.
Alternate Name
Mercury Friendship 7
Key Accomplishment(s)
Carried First American into Orbit
Impact or Innovation
By orbiting the Earth, John Glenn showed that the United States could compete with the Soviet Union in the Cold War space race.
Brief Description
On February 20, 1962, NASA astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth in this spacecraft which he named Friendship 7. Glenn returned to a hero's welcome, having completed three orbits and matching the Soviet Union's achievements.
Inventory Number