Feb. 20, 2013
– If it was located almost anywhere else in the country, the sight of a space capsule sitting alongside a typical suburban intersection might seem out of place. But in Pasadena, Texas, located only about 20 minutes from NASA's Johnson Space Center where retired rockets, capsules and even a space shuttle pepper the landscape as lawn ornaments, it is easy to see why such a spectacle might be taken for granted.
But there at the corner of Red Bluff Road and St. Augustine Avenue, opposite a gas station, a cash loan store, and an elementary school, sits John Glenn's 1962 Mercury spacecraft, "Friendship 7." Or to put it more accurately, there is a fairly faithful replica of the small capsule that Glenn rode to become the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth 51 years ago today (Feb. 20).
(The real "Friendship 7" was transferred by NASA to the Smithsonian in 1963 and is today on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.)
According to a research librarian at the Pasadena Public Library, the spacecraft resides on land owned by the U.S. Army National Guard. (Calls to the armory for more information went unanswered.)
Local residents say the capsule, which for all its details — including an escape tower — is missing a hatch, has sat where it is today for more than four decades. In recent years, it has been restored and made to resemble "Friendship 7." The website "A Field Guide to American Spacecraft" displays photos from February 2005 showing the same model in rougher shape without "Friendship 7" painted on its side.