John Glenn: “Me Spaceman, You Native”

When John Glenn was preparing for launch on the first U.S orbital spaceflight (50 years ago), he realized that his capsule would be passing over some parts of the world that might be inhabited by aborigines — native tribes cut off from civilization and unaware that humans were flying in space.

"I was thinking that if I had to make an emergency re-entry and came down in one of those areas, well … The people on the ground might hear a sonic boom, look up, and here comes a little black dot. It sets down, the hatch blows off the side and out steps this thing in a silver suit," Glenn told reporters during a press conference marking the 50th anniversary of his flight.

"You’re going to be one of three things — God, chief or dead. So you better have some means of communicating."

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(On February 20, 1962, John Glenn went to space, becoming the first American in orbit and a national icon. )

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