Monday, February 20, 2012

Round and Round He Goes

As the fine blog Television Obscurities notes, it was 50 years ago today that astronaut John Glenn’s spacecraft, Friendship 7, blasted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida as part of the United States’ Project Mercury. That launch resulted in the first successful attempt by NASA to put an astronaut in orbit.
At least 60 million viewers were glued to their television set, according to Broadcasting. Some 135 million would watch at least some of the network coverage that day. The three networks spent at least $3 million on the mission, a figure that included the costs incurred by a number of delays. The expensive delays forced ABC to withdraw from broadcasting “A Tour of the White House with Mrs. John F. Kennedy” earlier in the month. The coverage began three hours prior to lift-off, at 6:30 a.m., and continued for 11.5 hours. Both CBS and NBC also pre-empted portions of their evening schedule to air specials on Glenn’s flight: CBS aired a half-hour special from 9:30-10 p.m., while NBC’s special ran from 10 [to] 11 p.m.
Television Obscurities’ post includes “footage of the countdown and launch of Friendship 7, with commentary by Walter Cronkite ...”

By the way, John Glenn--who went on from being an astronaut to become a popular Democratic U.S. senator from Ohio (1974-1999)--will celebrate his 91st birthday in July. However, network TV news programs will probably pay closer attention to him today.

READ MORE:50 Years On: The Smithsonian’s Five Weirdest Items from John Glenn’s Flight,” by Richard Connelly (Houston Press); “To the Moon, Neil! To the Moon!,” by J. Kingston Pierce (The Rap Sheet).

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