Presentation on eve of 50th anniversary of first orbital U.S. spaceflight


Photo of NASA Mercury 7 astronauts.

SEATTLE, Feb. 9, 2012--On the eve of the 50th anniversary of astronaut John Glenn's historic orbital flight, historian Roger Launius' Feb. 19 presentation at the Museum will reconsider the Project Mercury space program and the individuals who carried it out. It will relate the origins and execution of this first attempt to reach into space and its meaning five decades later. Launius is senior curator in the Division of Space History at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. The program will be at 2 p.m. and is free with admission to the Museum.

In 1979 author Tom Wolfe redefined the public persona of the first astronauts in his bestselling book, "The Right Stuff." His story spanned the period from early high-speed flight immediately after World War II to the end of America's first human spaceflight program, Project Mercury. Launius will shed some new light on the men who were said to have "the right stuff." John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth on Feb. 21, 1962


Roger D. Launius

Roger D. Launius is senior curator in the Division of Space History at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Between 1990 and 2002 he served as chief historian of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Launius has written or edited more than twenty books on aerospace history, including "Smithsonian Atlas of Space Exploration"; "Robots in Space: Technology, Evolution, and Interplanetary Travel"; and "Space Stations: Base Camps to the Stars." He served as a consultant to the space shuttle Columbia Accident Investigation Board in 2003 and is frequently a commentator on National Public Radio and all the major television network

news programs.

The Museum of Flight is an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.

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The non-profit Museum of Flight is one of the largest independent air and space museums in the world. The Museum's collection includes more than 150 historically significant air- and spacecraft, as well as the William E. Boeing Red Barn® -- the original manufacturing facility of the Boeing Co. The Airpark includes outdoor displays with the first jet Air Force One, a Concorde airliner, and the first Boeing 747 jumbo jet. The Museum aeronautical library and archival holdings are the largest on the West Coast. The Education Office offers weekend family programs, programs for students and educators, and overnight camps for children. McCormick & Schmick's Wings Café is on site.


The Museum of Flight is located at 9404 E. Marginal Way S., Seattle, Exit 158 off Interstate 5 on Boeing Field half-way between downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac Airport. The Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $17 for adults, $14 for seniors 65 and older, $13 for active military, $9 for youth 5 to 17, and free for children under 5. Group rates are available. Admission on the first Thursday of the month is free from 5 to 9 p.m. courtesy of Wells Fargo. For general Museum information, please call 206-764-5720 or visit

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