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Full Coverage: Forty years of U.S. in orbit

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Mercury memorabilia for 40th anniversary

February 16, 2002 — In response to feedback from collectors, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor's Complex has announced they are now taking reservations for a limited edition photo autographed by the four surviving Mercury astronauts.

Signed by John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Walter Schirra, and Gordon Cooper, the photo shows the Mercury-Atlas rocket used by all four to reach orbit. The image — the launch of Friendship 7 on February 20, 1962 — was reproduced using a high-resolution digital file provided by NASA.

Priced at $125.00 (plus tax and shipping), a portion of proceeds will go to the non-profit Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF). The ASF awards scholarships to college students pursuing advanced degrees in the fields of science and engineering.

Orders can be placed now by calling 321-449-4450, Monday through Saturday between the hours of 8:00am and 6:00pm and on Sunday from 8:00am to 4:00pm ET.

The signed photo will also be available on February 24, during the various events celebrating the anniversary of the Mercury orbital flights at the Kennedy Space Center.

A special commemorative is planned for guests of the Evening with the Mercury Astronauts at KSC's Apollo Saturn V Center. Each of the dinner guests will receive a medallion minted in part from metal taken from Cape Canaveral Air Station Pad 14, where the Mercury-Atlas was launched 40 years ago.

Production of the medallion was sponsored by Space Adventures, Ltd., the company responsible for space tourists Dennis Tito's and Mark Shuttleworth's flights to the International Space Station.

In relation to the event, the Visitor Complex has shared that Walter Cronkite has unfortunately had to cancel his planned attendance at the evening gala.

Anniversary reunites Mercury astronauts

January 27, 2002 — On Sunday, February 24, 2002, the public is invited to celebrate 40 years of Americans in orbit with all four surviving original Mercury astronauts — John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra and Gordon Cooper — at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Walter Cronkite, CBS television news anchor, will also make a special appearance to commemorate this historic occasion. February 20 marks the 40th anniversary of John Glenn's Friendship 7 mission, the first of America's orbital space flights.

Special events will take place throughout the day and evening of February 24. The Visitor Complex and the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation are offering two ways to celebrate: guests may participate in special daytime activities for the price of regular admission or they may purchase a combined day and evening events package.

Daytime events

At 4 p.m., the Mercury astronauts will take part in a dedication ceremony at the newly redeveloped Rocket Garden, with WESH TV's Space Reporter, Dan Billow serving as host. The Rocket Garden is home to an authentic Mercury Atlas, the same rocket that launched the four astronauts into space. New elements in the Rocket Garden include expansive pathways, seating pods, dramatic lighting and enhanced graphic elements.

During the day, Mercury and Gemini Astronaut Gordon Cooper and Mercury, Gemini and Apollo Pad Leader Guenter Wendt will sign copies of their books. Comedian Bill Dana, famous for his character "José Jiménez" and who became known as the eighth Mercury astronaut, will sign copies of his CD.

The Rocket Garden dedication ceremony and special daytime appearances are included in the price of regular admission, $26 for adults and $16 for children. Tickets can be purchased at the Visitor Complex on the day of the event, or may be purchased in advance by calling (321) 449-4444 or visit Guests who are 12-month pass members may attend the daytime events at no additional charge.

Evening event

At 5:30 p.m., the Visitor Complex will host An Evening with the Mercury Astronauts at the Apollo Saturn V Center featuring a sit-down buffet dinner, special video presentation and remarks by the astronauts. Gemini and Apollo astronaut James Lovell, Astronaut Scholarship Foundation chairman will serve as master of ceremonies. Television news veteran Walter Cronkite and Bill Dana, aka José Jiménez, will also appear at the evening event.

Tickets to the evening event cost $75 per person and include admission to the Rocket Garden dedication ceremony, book signings and appearances. Seating is limited and advance reservations are required. To purchase tickets for these events, the public may call (321) 449-4444 or visit

US Airways and Space Adventures are sponsors.

The participating astronauts have agreed to donate their appearance fees to the Scholarship Foundation, which provides money to college students pursuing degrees in the fields of science and engineering. The Foundation was established by the six surviving Mercury astronauts and Mrs. Betty Grissom, widow of the seventh, in 1984.

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