Forty-nine years ago – within one day of each other, one astronaut headed for orbit as America’s first to circle the Earth and a future astronaut opened a series of record attempts in the McDonell F4H Phantom:
Images Courtesy Rex Features & NASA
20 Feb 1962: Lieutenant Colonel John H. Glenn. USMC, in Mercury spacecraft Friendship 7, was launched from Cape Canaveral by an Atlas rocket. His three turns about the earth were the first U.S. manned orbital flights. He was recovered some 166 miles east of Grand Turk Island in the Bahamas by the destroyer Noa (DD 841) and then delivered by helicopter to the carrier Randolph.
F4H-1 Phantom (BuNo 149449) Image Courtesy Boeing Co.
21 Feb 1962: The F4H-1 Phantom II established new world records for climb to 3,000 and 6,000 meters with times of 34.52 and 48.78 seconds. Lieutenant Commander J. W. Young and Commander D. M. Longton piloted the plane on its respective record flights at NAS Brunswick, Maine.
Glenn completed three orbits reaching a maximum altitude (apogee) of approximately 162 statute miles and an orbital velocity of approximately 17,500 miles per hour. Glenn would later go on to be the only Mercury astronaut to fly on the Shuttle (Discovery/STS-95).
LCDR John W. Young, wrapping up his assignment to the Naval Air Test Center, went on to set another time-to-climb record flying out of Point Mugu reached an altitude of 3000 meters (9843 feet) in 34.523 seconds. Three more time-to-climb records were set at NAS Brunswick on 3 Apr 62, reaching an altitude of 25,000 meters (82,021 feet) in 230.440 seconds. Young was selected as part of the second cohort of astronauts later in 1962 (while MO in VF-143) and went on to be the first person to fly 6 times in space – Gemini 3 (first flight of the Gemini spacecraft), Gemini 10, Apollo 10 (CM pilot), Apollo 16 (CDR), STS-1 (Columbia’s and the Shuttle’s first flight) and STS-9 (first Spacelab flight).
Article Series - Centenary of Naval Aviation (1911-2011)
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- Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy
- Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part II)
- Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part III)
- Reflections on the E-2 Hawkeye’s 50th Anniversary
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- Guest Post: THE U.S. NAVY’S FLEET PROBLEMS OF THE THIRTIES — A Dive Bomber Pilot’s Perspective
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