A radio signal from the space-craft indicated that the landing bag, which would act as a cushion when the capsule hit the water, had been deployed prematurely. If this signal proved valid, it would mean that the heat shield, which is attached to the landing bag, had also come free and would not protect the spacecraft from the fiery heat of re-entry.
For the next three hours, while Glenn rode through two more space days and nights, scientists of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration huddled to determine what action to take. Tension rose sharply as time ran out.
Retrorockets fire to slow the capsule and push it earthward