On Feb. 20, 1962, NASA launched John Glenn into orbit, one of the most important flights in American history. Glenn was selected from an original pool of 508. Criteria included excellent physical shape, less than 40 years old, shorter than 5 feet 11 inches, and qualified jet pilots. They also had to have at least 1,500 hours flying time and bachelors’ degrees in engineering.
In addition to meeting all these requirements, Glenn also had a reputation as one of the best test pilots in the country. In July 1957, he set a transcontinental speed record by flying from Los Angeles to New York in 3 hours and 23 minutes. It was the first transcontinental flight to average supersonic speed.
After three years of training, Glenn was shot into space aboard the Mercury capsule Friendship 7. At this point, he became the third American in space and the first to orbit Earth.