America's first astronauts. Front row, left to right: Walter M. "Wally" Schirra Jr., Donald K. "Deke" Slayton, John H. Glenn Jr., M. Scott Carpenter; back row: Alan B. Shepard Jr., Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom and L. Gordon Cooper, Jr.
On Feb. 20, 1962, an Atlas rocket successfully carried Sen. John Glenn and the hopes of an entire nation into orbit aboard Friendship 7, a flight that ushered in a new era of space travel that eventually led to Americans walking on the moon by the end of the 1960s. Glenn was soon followed into orbit by colleagues Scott Carpenter, Walter Schirra and Gordon Cooper. Their fellow Mercury astronauts Alan Shepard and Virgil "Gus" Grissom flew earlier suborbital flights. Deke Slayton was grounded by a medical condition until the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975.
NASA commemorated the 45th anniversary of Americans in orbit with a special multimedia salute to the original Mercury astronauts and new interviews with Sen. John Glenn, Scott Carpenter and Walter Schirra. Hosted by NASA astronaut Carl Walz, this feature offers a 360-degree tour of Glenn's tiny Friendship 7 capsule, using images from a rare photo shoot inside the spacecraft.