John Glenn and his wife, Annie, and NASA astronaut Stephen Robinson stand under space shuttle Discovery in Orbiter Processing Facility-1 OPF-1 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Glenn is at the space center to mark the 50th anniversary of being the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth inside the NASA Mercury Project's Friendship 7 capsule on Feb. 20, 1962. Glenn later returned to space in October 1998 as a payload specialist aboard Discovery's STS-95 mission. Robinson was the payload commander of STS-95.
Glenn's launch aboard an Atlas rocket took with it the hopes of an entire nation and ushered in a new era of space travel that eventually led to Americans walking on the moon by the end of the 1960s. Glenn soon was followed into orbit by Scott Carpenter, Walter Schirra and Gordon Cooper. Their fellow Mercury astronauts Alan Shepard and Virgil "Gus" Grissom flew earlier suborbital flights. Deke Slayton, a member of NASA's original Mercury 7 astronauts, was grounded by a medical condition until the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975. Shuttle Discovery currently is being prepared for display at Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va. Photo credit: Cory Huston