Saturday, January 26, 2008
1953 Series A Jeffferson Flown with John Glenn on Friendship 7
This $2 bill, serial number A60730193, accompanied Lt. Col. John Glenn on the historic, first manned orbital flight of the US space program aboard the Mercury spacecraft Friendship 7 on February 20, 1962. The spacecraft, and the bills onboard, made 3 full orbits, making John Glenn the first American to orbit the Earth -- and spent a full 4 hours and 56 minutes, before spashing down in the Atlantic Ocean. Together, they flew 75,679 miles and reaching a maximum velocity of 17,526 miles per hour! This bill is hand signed by Lt. Col. Glenn, his backup pilot, and mission Capcomm and fellow Mercury Astronaut Scott Carpenter, and Joe Trammel, the launch crew member who placed the bill in the capsule and wrote "Good Luck, John" on it. The bill is further flight certified on a parchment certificate, also hand signed by Glenn and Carpenter, and notarized May 9th, 1962, as having flown on the mission. This bill, along with other $1 bills and a few $2 bills, are some of the earliest known currency to ever fly into space. The flight of these bills caused a bit of a stir in the press and among Congressmen, who expressed fear that "such articles" might jam the delicate electronic equipment aboard the ship. In press reports at the time, one writer termed the bills as "contraband cargo of souvenir dollars", and an unnamed space agency officially called their flight on the craft "foolish business." When Glenn testified in front of the House Space Committee, he claimed at the time to only know of one $1 bill to have flown, wrapped in a wire bundle behind the control panel. But a NASA spokesperson is later quoted as reporting that some 200 bills (mostly $1 bills) were hidden aboard Glenn's spacecraft by launch crew personnel. Further research at the John Glenn Achives, however, has turned up a memo dated March 9th, 1962, written by Charles L. Buckley, Jr., of the NASA Security Office. According to Mr. Buckley's memo, "approximately $52 to $56 or a total of 32 bills of one and two dollar denominations were place aboard the capsule by a McDonnell Aircraft employee..." So the universe of flown bills from this mission are extremely limited to just 32 bills. According to Same Beddingfield, Kenndy Space Center employee number 4, and the engineer responsible for the weight and balance of the Friendship 7 capsule, this was the first flight in US manned spaceflight history to carry a $2 bill, and the majority of bills flown were of the $1 variety on this flight. (For more on Sam, please see the post below.) An amazing bill and one of the very, very few surviving examples of flown $2 bills from THE VERY FIRST FLIGHT into space for a Jefferson. I'm proud to have this historic flown bill as a part of the Jefferson-in-Space Museum!