Saturday, January 8, 2011

John Glenn: First American to Orbit the Earth

On the morning of February 20, 1962, millions of Americans collectively held their breath as the world's newest pioneer swept across the threshold of one of man's last frontiers. Roughly a hundred miles above their heads, astronaut John Glenn sat comfortably in the weightless environment of a 9 1/2-by-6-foot space capsule he called Friendship 7. Within these close quarters he worked through his flight plan and completed an array of technical and medical tests as he cruised through the heavens.

It offered the leg room of a Volkswagen 'Beetle' and the aesthetics of a garbage can, but the small capsule commanded an extraordinary view of the planet Earth. Through the craft's window, Glenn saw thick, puffy, white clouds blanketing much of southern Africa and the Indian Ocean. The Atlas Mountains of North Africa stood like proud, majestic statues on a planet that seemed as timeless as the stars that twinkled an eternity away. Dust storms blew across the deserts, and smoke from brush fires swirled into the atmosphere.

'Oh, that view is tremendous,' Glenn remarked over the radio to capsule communicator (Capcom) Alan Shepard, his fellow Mercury astronaut stationed back at mission control. As Friendship 7 passed over the Indian Ocean, Glenn witnessed his first sunset from space, a panorama of beautiful, brilliant colors. Before the conclusion of that historic day, he would witness a total of four sunsets–three while in earth orbit, and the fourth from the deck of his recovery ship.

For Glenn, the historic voyage of Friendship 7 remains as vivid today as if it had happened yesterday. People still ask him what it felt like to be the first American to orbit the earth. And often he thinks of his capsule's breathtaking liftoff and those subtle, emotionally empowering sunrises and sunsets.

'Here on earth you see a sunrise, it's golden, it's orange,' Glenn recalled recently. 'When you're in space, and you're coming around on a sunset or sunrise, where the light comes to you refracted through the earth's atmosphere and back out into space, to the space craft that refraction has the same glowing color for all the colors of the spectrum . . . .'

There have been more than ten thousand sunsets since his orbital flight helped launch the United States deeper into a space race with the former Soviet Union. And although Glenn's political career as a Democratic senator from Ohio has kept him in the public eye, he is remembered by many of his countrymen as the first American to circle the planet and as the affable spokesman for the seven Mercury astronauts.

Glenn marvels at how people all over the world still recall the heady days of the Mercury program. 'It's been heartwarming in some respects and it's amazing in others,' he says. 'I don't go around all day, saying 'Don't you want to hear about my space experience?' Quite the opposite. But if the kids come to the office here, or if I run into them on the subway and they want to stop a minute, I don't hesitate to stop and talk. I think it's good; I think that's a duty we [former astronauts] have.'

By the time Glenn and Friendship 7 burst through the earth's atmosphere, the United States was already a distant second in space technology, behind the Soviet Union. The race to begin to explore the universe had unofficially begun on October 4, 1957, when the Soviets launched Sputnik I, the world's first artificial satellite.

'I think Sputnik sort of forced the hand,' explains Gene Kranz, who served as Project Mercury's assistant flight director and section chief for flight control operations. 'I think we found ourselves an embarrassing second in space and related technologies. We were second best, and Americans generally don't like that kind of a role.'

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, however, was more concerned about the country's security than its self-esteem. With the Soviets having the rocket power to propel a satellite into space, he wondered how long it would be before they were capable of launching a nuclear bomb toward the United States. In response to this perceived Soviet threat, Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) into being on July 29, 1958. One of the first assignments given to the new agency was to launch a man into space and return him safely to earth, and that fall, Project Mercury was created to fulfill that daunting task.

On April 9, 1959, NASA formally introduced to the world the seven test pilots who would, it was hoped, carry the U.S. banner to the heavens. Selected were: Lieutenant Commanders Malcolm Scott Carpenter, Walter Marty Schirra, and Alan B. Shepard of the Navy; Air Force captains Leroy Gordon Cooper, Virgil I. 'Gus' Grissom, and Donald 'Deke' Slayton; and Lieutenant Colonel John H. Glenn of the Marine Corps.

Born on July 18, 1921, Glenn was the oldest of the group, arguably the most celebrated, and an obvious candidate for Mercury from the beginning. A veteran of World War II and the Korean War, Glenn had flown 149 combat missions and been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross five times. After completing test-pilot school in 1954, Glenn went to work testing the fastest jets America could produce. His rsum sparkled even more in 1957 after he set a transcontinental speed record for the first flight to average supersonic speed (seven hundred miles per hour) from Los Angeles to New York.

From their first public appearance together, the Mercury 7 astronauts, as they came to be known, were celebrities and heroes. 'We were at first extremely surprised when we were announced to the whole world, and how crazy everybody went over the whole thing,' laughs Cooper.

Bargaining, Part One

"Bargaining, Part One" is the season premiere of the sixth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and is the one hundred first episode altogether. It was written by Jane Espenson and Douglas Petrie and directed by Douglas Petrie. It was originally broadcast on October 2, 2001 and was the first episode of the series broadcast on UPN.

The Scooby Gang try to keep up appearances of normality as they prepare a ritual to raise Buffy from the dead.

The Scoobies patrol in the absence of the Slayer, who has been dead for five months. Willow and her growing powers lead the efforts and the gang with telepathy and other magic from a perch on top of a crypt. She's even repaired the Buffybot, who helps the group slay several vampires -- and helps keep Buffy's death a secret. Willow and Tara are living at the Summers' home with Dawn and the Buffybot. Willow has tried to make the robot behave more normally, but her tuning never really goes quite as planned.

The Buffybot is sent out with Dawn for Parent Day at Dawn's school. She behaves oddly, but the other parents hear her comments in Ms. Lefcourt's class as expressing concerns similar to their own and the Buffybot doesn't draw any suspicion. At the Magic Box, Giles is packing up his items in preparation for his return to England. Anya is torn between the idea of losing Giles and taking over the shop on her own.

That night, Spike stays with Dawn while the rest of the gang have a meeting. Dawn suggests that Spike can leave, but he is determined not to leave her to be hurt ever again and starts a card game. The Buffybot hunts a vampire, but gets hit with a bottle and her motion skills are impaired. The vampire realizes the Slayer is a robot and quickly leaves. Anya has found — on eBay of all places — the last Urn of Osiris. Willow's pleased and announces their plans to bring back Buffy the next night. She stresses that Giles, Spike, and Dawn cannot know, and that because Buffy was killed by mystical energy, they have a chance of bringing her back.

Willow: "Come forward, blessed one. Know your calling."AmukAdded by Amuk

Willow returns home to find Spike keeping a wounded Buffybot out of trouble, the Buffybot having been programmed to return to Willow if damaged. Spike angrily leaves when the Buffybot innocently compliments him on his physique – a programming remnant from her sexbot days – and Buffybot confides in Willow about Spike's constant shame in her presence. Without her real sister, Dawn tries to find comfort from the Buffybot, but doesn't get much. The next day, Giles tries to teach the Buffybot new skills, like breathing, then they talk about Giles' reason to be in Sunnydale now that Buffy is gone.

The vampire that hit the Buffybot with a bottle brags about it to several "Hellions" — a gang of biker demons — and the news is spilled that a robot has now taken over for the Slayer. After tearing the vampire's head off (when he suggests joining the gang), the demons ride out to wreak havoc in Sunnydale. Willow works a summoning spell in an open outdoor location and a baby deer approaches her. She suddenly stabs it in the throat, collecting blood, and finishes her spell. She returns to the Magic Box, claiming she got the "vino de madre" from the black market.

Buffy returns.AmukAdded by Amuk

The gang finds a note from Giles, stating that he's already left. Not about to accept a silent escape, the Scooby Gang tracks him down at the airport and he gets a proper farewell with presents, signs, balloons, and tears. After Giles departs, Willow, Xander, Anya and Tara return home for final preparations and then head to the cemetery. They prepare the ritual, sitting around Buffy's grave and Willow begins the spell. While performing the spell, Willow's skin is cut by invisible blades, large insects appear to crawl underneath her skin, and a large snake is produced from her mouth, but Tara insists that they can't stop.

Meanwhile, Spike watches over Dawn and the demon bikers are tearing Sunnydale apart. Buffybot tries to stop them, but the leader, Razor, wounds her and she runs away to find Willow. The bikers following her reach the cemetery and interrupt Willow's spell by breaking the Urn of Osiris and scattering the gang's circle. One of the bikers tries to take Anya away, but Tara uses magic to get her back. Xander tells Willow that the spell didn't work, but in the coffin, a dead, decaying body reverts back to life in the confused form of Buffy.

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Drop what you're doing and help us test!

When we originally released the new Clicky a few weeks ago, we had programmed in support for detecting small screens (1024 or less) and moving the sidebar to the top instead, so that you don't have to scroll sideways. However, there was apparently a serious bug with it and some of you were getting this forced small screen mode even if your browser window was large and in charge.

Well, we think we finally fixed it. However, since we never saw the bug in action ourselves, we need you to help us test this change before making it live. To help test, please visit and tell us if you see it (by leaving a comment here). 

Don't just test once though - after you login and view a few reports, completely close your browser and re-open it and see if it continues to happen. Maybe try making your browser window small so "small site" mode goes into action, then close that tab, make your screen full size again, then re-open We think that may have been part of the problem, the screen size wasn't being checked properly if next time you viewed the site it was small instead of large or vice versa.

Thanks for your help and in particular if you were one of the ones experiencing this problem with the initial release, your feedback is appreciated!

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