On 20 February 1962, John Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission truly marked the beginning of NASA’s ventures into space, 10 months after the first human orbital spaceflight by Yuri Gagarin in Vostok 1 (12 April 1961).

Following the trail blazed by Gagarin, John Glenn rode an Atlas booster into Earth orbit. His success was a blaze of glory for the American public, whose adulation approached that given to Charles Lindbergh following his solo transatlantic flight in 1927. (Chaikin, Space, pg. 29, 43)

The photograph shows John Glenn in full pressure space suit inside the van transporting him to Cape Canaveral’s Launch Complex 14. He is studying an orbital map of the Earth for the last time prior to boarding Friendship 7 to become the first American in orbit.