Feb. 20, 1962 NASA always insisted that it shuffled the Shepard, Grissom, Glenn deck randomly, believing that all three men were equally gifted pilots and that any one of them could get tapped for the true glamour flight the first earth orbital. But there's gifted and there's gifted, and when it came to projecting pure, wholesome-as-a-milk-shake Americana, the surly Shepard and the pugnacious Grissom couldn't touch Glenn. This chafed the other six astronauts, who knew the moment Glenn was assigned to the first orbital mission that he would forever be cast as the Gladys Knight to their Pips, and they were right. Three and a half decades later, as Glenn, then a U.S. Senator, was speaking to a group of schoolchildren in Washington, a small boy asked him to talk about his two "assistant astronauts." That, presumably, would be Shepard and Grissom. Infighting aside, Glenn pulled off a brilliant three-orbit mission, putting NASA firmly on the cosmic map.