1962: A Cosmic Confrontation

Robert Lamb, guest writer

The year was 1957. My name is John Glenn and I was a pilot and engineer for the United States Air Force and was held in high regard for my accomplishment as the first person to make a supersonic transcontinental flight. In October of that year, the Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite into orbit around the earth sparking the space race between the USSR and the US. In order to compete with the Soviet Union, NASA had begun an ambitious project the put the first American man in orbit around the earth. Because of my experience as a pilot I signed up to be an astronaut in the mission. Little did I know how drastically the experience would affect the rest of my life afterwards.
February 18, 1962
After three years of training I was ready. While I was somewhat anxious, the excitement of being only two days away from my monumental space flight vastly overpowered any fear I possessed. Until that morning, I had been told that I would be the only one embarking on the journey, but unbeknownst to me, the operation plans had significantly changed over the three years of preparation. That morning I was introduced to my copilot Travis Carson. He was a bit of an eccentric fellow who seemed to possess a great knowledge of the final frontier. I had been told that he was a fantastic copilot, however his odd mannerisms convinced me that he’d never flown in anything faster than a commercial express flight. Other than that I knew nothing about this mysterious addition to the mission. After our somewhat rushed introduction, Travis and I were hurried along for some last minute preparations that apparently needed to be made.
We were then led into an expansive hangar in which the spacecraft that would carry us on our dangerous quest resided. The images of the spacecraft seen in newspapers and articles after the mission did not come close to reality. In reality, the ship was exceedingly larger by at least 6 times than what was revealed to the public. It could be compared to the space shuttle, however not quite as large; it also did not possess the wing-like structures present on the shuttle either. The ship had eight porthole windows from which one could observe from and had multiple extendable arms for purposes that were above my clearance level at the time.
After getting a brief overlook at the craft, known as “Friendship 7”, Travis was called away by some people who seemed to be of significant importance and was not seen again by myself until the day of the launch. This was rather unusual considering the circumstances. Not only had the mission gained an extra member within the hour but all attempts to make contact with my copilot later that day or the next were unsuccessful. The scientists who were in charge of supervising the whole operation were also very hushed and would not clearly answer any questions I had about anything other than safety protocols. By the time night arrived on the 18th, I had an incredible sense of uneasiness about the days to come.
The day of the 19th was packed from beginning to end with test runs and going over what needed to happen for me to safely pilot the Friendship 7 out of the atmosphere, around the globe, and then back down. Strangely enough, I never saw Travis once that day even though he was supposed to be my copilot and an essential part of our mission.
That night was a rough night. As I lay in my bed, my mind was swirling with thoughts about what would or could happen. To put it lightly, I was scared. Would the rocket hold together? Would my body retain its shape in zero gravity? And what about all the secrecy regarding Travis and the spacecraft? Eventually I managed to drift off to sleep but was soon awakened by the morning rays bursting through the blinds.
February 20, 1962
The day was upon me and my worries about as numerous as the stars. As soon as I awoke, the final preparations were underway. After ingesting a breakfast of questionable content that had been given to me by the scientists (supposedly to help me perform better in space), it was time to suit up. Although I had worn similar suits during my training, this suit sent a wave on anxiety coursing through me. All my fears from the night came rushing back to me in an instant and I had to take a moment to regain my composure. While in the process of equipping my outfit, I saw my copilot for the second time only hours before the launch. We exchanged some small talk and eventually I asked him why I hadn’t seen or heard from him until just two days ago. All he said to me was “You’ll see”.
“Ten!” As the countdown entered its final moments I gritted my teeth. “Eight!” Was I really ready for this? “Six!” I looked to my side to see Travis’ wide grin of anticipation. “Four!” What was the deal with him anyways? Who is he? Where did he come from? What is up with this mission? “Two!” I didn’t have any longer to consider these things. “Zero! Commencing launch sequence.”
“Oh I have a bad feeling about this!” I exclaimed. And with that, we began our ascent into the heavens.
While the ascent was one of the most gut-wrenching moments of my life, it was also one the most exhilarating. Within minutes we had exited the earth’s atmosphere and could observe our beautiful planet with our own eyes. That moment will live forever in my mind as the most wondrous thing I have ever seen. Travis too was clearly taken aback at such a magnificent sight. Once all of our rocket packs had been ejected, we began to make preparations for the orbital flight. I corrected our course as I had been instructed to and began the ignition marking the true beginning of our historic mission.
The first rotation and a half went very smoothly and was quite relaxing. Many times I would leave my seat to enjoy the feeling of weightlessness while it lasted. Near the end of the second rotation however, I grew more and more concerned as Travis began to exhibit signs of tremendous stress and anxiety as he was scanning the horizon intensely and would not leave his seat. As we were about half way through our third rotation Travis exclaimed quite loudly “Finally!”
Unsure of what he was talking about I moved towards the cockpit to see. But with a quick movement of his hand, he hit a switch that sealed me off from the middle and front sections of the ship. I pounded on the door yelling for Travis to open in up, but to no avail. I felt the ship come to a stop (or at least as much of a stop as you can come to in space), and a tremendously loud noise emanated throughout the Friendship 7. I peered out of one of the two portholes available to me and saw a massive shadowy object drifting only meters above us. What is that mad man Travis doing? I thought to myself. He’s going to get us killed if we don’t get away from this asteroid! To my surprise I observed as the mechanical arms, four of them, reached out towards the object and firmly latched on. To my even greater surprise was that I could now see Travis himself emerging from our craft with a tether. In his hands were scientific tools the likes of which I had never seen before, and with them he began to remove an odd elliptical formation that seemed to appear all over the dark mass. After what was probably about ten to fifteen minutes, Travis returned to the Friendship 7 with his mysterious formation protected inside an airtight glass container.
After seeing that he had returned and secured the exit, I began the process of opening the door. My skills as an engineer came in handy here. As the door’s opening neared its advent, I dug around in my suit’s pockets and found my knife. Although it was not much, in this situation it could mean the difference between life and death.
As the door finally slid open, I braced myself for what might ensue. I had made the correct decision. As soon as the door opened, Travis came flying at me like a maniac. It would seem I was so unwanted that Travis had brought a knife himself, clearly with intentions to dispose of unwanted witnesses.
“Don’t try it,” I shouted, but despite my warning he lunged, intent on stabbing me. I evaded his first attack and grabbed the floating container and hurled it straight at Travis’ face. The impact was unexpected and left him dazed for a few moments. I seized the opportunity; catching him in a headlock, removing his helmet, and pressing my knife to his throat, I began to politely ask him some questions that needed answering. I began with my most pressing question.
“What is that thing?” I said gesturing over to the glass container that now sustained large cracks in its side. He remained silent for a few moments, and then a look of shock went over his face, I glanced back towards the container. The object was moving. Its appearance was reminiscent of a super sized bacterium: slimy, elliptical, and covered in arm-like protrusions. At first it was slow, but began to move increasingly faster as if it were waking up. Before long the thing began to furiously pound against the glass of the container that was in serious danger of being broken. Travis went into a fit of madness. With a burst inhuman strength he escaped my grasp and propelled himself to back of the craft frantically trying to seal the door that had held me moments before.
Before I could say anything, a loud creaking noise echoed in my ears. The monster in the box finally broke free and flew straight to the ceiling and stuck there as if trying to somehow slip through. The sound resounded again and this time clearly from on top of the ship. As dreadfully frightened as I was, my human curiosity got the best of me and I took a step under the porthole window facing upwards.
What greeted my eyes was the absolutely most indescribably horrific thing I have ever seen. What I had falsely perceived to be an asteroid was in fact huge writhing mass of a monstrosity that did not belong to my world or any that I knew of. Although I could not see much, what I saw was enough. It was covered it appendages which went every which way and moved seemingly as if each had a mind of its own. I caught a glimpse of what seemed to be a cavernous maw gaping open as if it were trying to devour the entire world. But worst of all were its eyes. They were not the eyes of a dumb beast, no, they were the eyes of an cognizant being. Its eyes pierced right through me as if it could see my every thought.
My memories of everything after that are all very hazy. While I don’t recall everything clearly, I do have a vague understanding of what transpired thereafter. The way the Friendship 7 was constructed allowed for multiple segments of the craft to function as an escape pod in case of emergency. The spacecraft images that have appeared in the media and the craft itself that now lies in the Smithsonian museum of air and space is nothing but the cockpit in which I ejected myself. But what became of Travis who in a frenzy had sealed himself in the rear end of the ship, I doubt I will ever know.

Works Cited
Garber, Steve. “The Friendship 7 Mission.” NASA, NASA, history.nasa.gov/ friendship7/.n.d.Web. Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Lucas, George, et al. Star Wars, Episode III, Revenge of the Sith. 20th Century Fox, 2005.
Writer, Mike Wall Space.com Senior. “John Glenn’s Historic Spaceflight Was No Sure Thing.” Space.com, www.space.com/14628-john-glenn-orbital-spaceflight-risk.html.n.d.Web. Wednesday, February 7, 2018
“Capsule, Mercury, MA-6.” National Air and Space Museum, 10 Nov. 2017, airandspace.si.edu/ collection-objects/capsule-mercury-ma-6. n.d.Web. Wednesday, February 7, 2018
“Historical Newspapers from 1700s-2000s.” Newspapers.com, basic.newspapers.com/image/ 23686056/?terms=John%2BGlenn. n.d.Web. Wednesday, February 7, 2018