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Glenn was able to conduct three orbits of the Earth, and as the spacecraft reached the point of reentry, Mission Control instructed the astronaut to leave the retropack in place, to keep the heat shield in place should it be loose.
GLENN: Well, when you're coming through re-entry in the high heat of re-entry, I could look out the window, the little window right over my head like this and see the chunks of retropack or -- yes, retropack and the ablation shield material coming back by the window in sort of a gold burning color.
I think that was a unique re-entry, because of all of the chunks of the retropack breaking off.
And there was all kinds of concerns, because there were some issues with your retropack.
Ground control also received a signal of a loose heat shield, but the retropack was able to keep it in place even as it burned during re-entry.
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