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John Glenn and the Friendship 7 Mission

Follow the epic journey of small-town boy John Glenn on his Friendship 7 mission that forever changed space exploration.

A short film created by Katie Schaefer



As the 100th birthday of astronaut John Glenn approaches, it is a prevalent time to reexamine the historical and scientific importance of Glenn and the Friendship 7 mission. My goal is to give today's audience an educational and entertaining experience using 3D visuals and 2D graphics through modern artistic technology.

Due to a lack of creative visuals being used regarding videos of John Glenn and the Friendship 7 mission,  it is important to give a modern artistic approach to developing an educational/entertaining biography to express the mission’s importance to today’s audience.

Thesis Statement


Project Script

If you'd like to view  the full script of the project , you can click the button below to download the PDF version.

Research and Inspiration


The following are major pieces of inspiration that have aided in developing this project in all of its stages.


From left to right top row: Two first images is artwork by Matt Chinworth for the NASA Artemis "How We Are Going To The Moon" video. Third image is various 2D Graphic inspiration. Last image is a short animation created by the NASA Goddard Visualization Lab.

Second Row: 2D graphics used within the movie "The Martian". A render of the NASA James Webb Telescope created by the NASA Goddard Visualization Lab. The particle effects and coloring used within the space scenes of Pixar's WALL-E. Last image is a clean and graphic rendering of the space shuttle in a more modern appearance.

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Before beginning the project I conducted research on John Glenn and his life, NASA and it's very beginnings, and the aesthetics of the 1960s-present day.

These are movies, shows, and biographies that I watched in order to learn about the subject in great detail.

The movies include Hidden Figures, The Right Stuff and the TV show series is Disney's The Right Stuff. The rest of the videos are biographies specifically on John Glenn and/or his involvement within NASA.

These images are actual blueprints, research data, and charts of the mission and John's vitals during his orbits. This information is part of a PDF I received from personal at the NASA Glenn Research Center that allowed me to accurately develop the 3D models and recount the information gained from the mission. 

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Storyboards and final frames

A visual comparison of the very first storyboards and the finished product for that scene.

Background Development

Early style tests done for the overall appearance of the project. I wanted to ensure there was a 'modern' appearance that would appeal to a large variety of people with brighter color pallets.



Slightly Textured Graphics

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Heavily Textured Graphics

A showcase of the final background style tests for the project. All backgrounds were created in Adobe Photoshop and many had a particle effect from Red Giant placed over to emulate stars and depth within the environment.

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Early 3D Modeling stills

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This section shows the very beginnings of a few 3D models and icons used as placeholders for the models within the early animatics of the film.

Early view of the Friendship 7 Vessel from the 'back'

Early view of the Friendship 7 Vessel from the 'front'

Mercury Atlas 6 Rocket


Icon placeholder for the 3D model of John's time as a Marine Aviator

Icon placeholder for the 3D model depicting the intense training measures undergone for the astronaut decision process

Icon placeholder for the 3D bust of John Glenn

Final 3D Models

The 3D models were created using the programs Autodesk Maya and ZBrush, as well as Substance Painter and Photoshop for the texturing for all models. They were also rendered within Maya and composited within Adobe After Effects. 

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John's Wooden Toy Plane

The F-86 Jet John Flew as a Marine Aviator

Mercury Atlas 6 Rocket


Copper 3D model of John Glenn during his time as a Marine Aviator


Copper 3D bust of John Glenn 


Copper 3D model depicting stages of the astronaut application process

Final 2d assets

All 2D assets were created within Adobe Photoshop and animated in either Adobe After Effects or Adobe Animate. This is a gallery showing a select few used throughout the film.

Project Production Schedule

This schedule allowed me to ensure all assets, narrations, music, and images/video were being completed on a timely basis that ensured project completion.

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Closing Thoughts

I loved every second working on this project and using the artistic skills I've developed during my time as student at the Cleveland Institute of Art on a historical subject. This was my first time creating or dealing with a biography style film and it was an amazing experience and one I look forward to working with again in the future on various other historical subjects.

My goal for this project was to revitalize this historical event using modern artistic technology and styles that would appeal to audiences from all generations. I wish for everyone to take something away from the film. Whether it's a new knowledge gained on the subject, an interest in NASA or animation, or simply being inspired by the story, I hope everyone is able to take something meaningful away.

I would like to again thank my BFA Committee members Herb Schilling, Scott Lax, Hal Lewis, Jeff Simonetta, and Anthony Sclamato for all of their help and guidance on this project.


Thank you as well to everyone who found their way to the bottom of this web page to observe the large amount of time I've put into this project and the progress within the many different stages.

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