USA 1962 Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) - Friendship 7

Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) was the first attempt by the US to place an astronaut into orbit, as part of Project Mercury. Launched on Feb 20, 1962, it made three earth orbits and was piloted by astronaut John Glenn, who became the first American to orbit the Earth.

The Mercury spacecraft, named Friendship 7, was launched into space by an Atlas LV-3B rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. After 4 hours and 56 minutes in flight the spacecraft re-entered the Earth's atmosphere, splashed down in the Atlantic ocean and was recovered by the USS NOA DD-841.

Two MA-6 covers here signed by John Glenn (the first American to orbit Earth) and Wernher Von Braun. The first cover was also signed by Hermann Oberth.

John Glenn, hand sketch by Chris Henderson.
Enos the chimp, hand sketch by Chris Henderson.
Project Mercury stamp block signed by Wernher von Braun.

Project Mercury stamp block signed by John Glenn.

The Mercury-Atlas 6 spacecraft landed near Grand Turk Island.

USS NOA DD-841 recovery cover

USS NOA DD-841 recovery cover, signed by John Glenn. Any recovery ship cover with a Feb 20, 1962 postmark and a Project Mercury stamp, such as this, is a backdated; there were no Project Mercury stamps aboard any ships.

MA-6 USS Randolph Captain's cover, signed by the ship's commanding officer and John Glenn. Although the USS Randolph was the designated Prime Recovery Ship for the mission, but it was actually USS NOA that rescue Glenn.

In the early days of the US space program there were only two postmarks available for space covers - "Patrick Air Force Base Florida" and "Port Canaveral". Majority of the early Space Craft covers were cancelled with the "Patrick Air Force Base" postmark, whereas a limited number of covers were cancelled at the Port Canaveral post office.

Project Mercury stamp on a Space Craft cover, signed by John Glenn. Only the "Cape Canaveral" postmark has the words "First Day of Issue" in its cancel and it was considered the official cancel. However, when this stamp was released, there was no post office named "Cape Canaveral" - Cape Canaveral was a geographical name for a point of land where the launch took place. The post offices in the area were called "Port Canaveral" from 1954-1962, and later called "Cape Canaveral".

Postmarked at Port Canaveral 10AM on Feb 20, 1962, to coincide with the launch time 9:47AM, signed by John Glenn.

Postmarked at Patrick Air Force Base, signed by John Glenn. "Patrick Air Force Base" was the most appropriate as it was the official military post office for Cape Canaveral, where the launches took place. Port Canaveral had no connection with the launch area; it was just a small village and the "port" was a fueling station for east coast shipping. Space Craft began offering their covers with the new Cape Canaveral Postmark when it became available in 1963.

Cape Canaveral Florida Post Office, official first day cancellation on September 1, 1962.