Space Cover #148: Glenn Scrub
In honor of the upcoming 50th anniversary of John Glenn's Friendship 7 Mercury flight, we SCOTW'ers are going to devote the next several SCOTW's to Glenn and his flight.
The rather inauspicious cover above actually has a backstory that helps make it more auspicious. This cover was postmarked at Patrick AFB (down the coast from Cape Canaveral, provided weather and rescue services for the spaceflights, and was the HQ for the Air Force detachment at the Cape) on February 14, 1962 for an Atlas ICBM test launch that happened the day before. It carries the Swanson self-serve rubber stamped cachet.
Launching John Glenn on America's first earth-orbital manned flight wasn't an easy endeavor. The launch was originally scheduled for December 19, 1961, but was scrubbed on December 7 due to problems with the Mercury capsule. Glenn and Carpenter (his backup) had already moved into the crew quarters at the Cape in preparation for the Dec. 19 launch.
The next attempt was scheduled for January 16, 1962, but was scrubbed on January 3 due to problems with the Atlas propellant tank.
On January 23, Glenn went through his preflight physical in preparation for launch that day, but the launch was scrubbed for yet another technical problem before he got suited up.
On January 27, Glenn got the preflight physical, suited up, and laid in Friendship 7 for five hours before the launch was scrubbed because the cloud cover was too low.
A February 1 launch attempt was scrubbed the day before when it was found that propellant had leaked into some thermal insulation during the launch attempt on January 27. This caused a stand down until February 13.
By February 12, the Atlas insulation rework was not complete, and the weather situation for February 13 looked bleak, so the launch date was reset for February 14.
On February 14, 1962 (the cover above) the launch attempt was scrubbed due to bad weather at the Cape. The bad weather hung in there, also scrubbing an attempt on February 16. By this time the press and the Soviets (obviously milking the numerous scrubbed attempts for propaganda) were questioning whether Glenn could still keep his focus after all of these scrubs.
However, on February 20, 1962, everything came together and John Glenn became the First American in orbit! You will hear a lot more about the flight in upcoming SCOTW's.
Plus the Space Unit is publishing a special issue of the Astrophile to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Glenn's flight. In that special issue, you will find an expanded version of this week's SCOTW along with images and references for more Glenn scrub date covers!