After Glenn’s mission and for the next few months, it looked like the U.S. was catching up with the Soviets in space. That would change before the year was summer was over.
The video below gives a nice summary of key moments in Glenn’s flight, though the special effects of the “fireflies” is poorly done. And we now know that the “fireflies” were nothing more than frozen particles of condensation coming off the capsule.
An evening pause: Fifty years ago today the United States succeeded for the first time in placing a living animal in orbit, four years after the Soviet’s launched the dog Laika into space. On November 29, 1961 NASA orbited a chimpanzee named Enos as a dress rehearsal for John Glenn’s orbital flight, then scheduled for early in 1962. See this article for some details about Enos difficult flight.
Since the flights of Gagarin, Titov, Shepard, and Grissom earlier in 1961, the 1960s space race had seemed in abeyance as NASA geared up for its first orbital manned mission, while the Soviets were typically silent about their plans. Yet, for those like myself who were alive at that time, the suspense never abated. What would happen next? Could the U.S. beat the Russians to the Moon? Only time would tell.