An Ohio legend became a modern star.
Senator John Glenn made his triumphant return to space Thursday as part of the seven member crew of space shuttle Discovery. His flight came 36 years after his journey on board the six-by-nine foot Mercury capsule, which launched him into history books as the first American to orbit the Earth.
At 77 years old, Glenn, an Ohio Democratic Senator who is retiring from the Senate after his term ends in January, is making history once again as the oldest person ever to go to space. His flight on NASA mission STS-95 is of special note to the state of Ohio. The senator was born in Cambridge, Ohio on July 18, 1921 and his home is in New Concord.
Besides being 19 minutes late due to technical difficulties and airplanes that strayed into a restricted area above the launch area, the launch went without any major problems. A panel on the tail fell off shortly after lift-off and hit one of the main engines but NASA officials said that it posed no hazard and should not affect the flight.
Although he has lobbied for years to fly again after President Kennedy effectively grounded him shortly after his 1962 flight in order to prevent the loss of a new American hero, he was chosen by the same rigorous standards all astronauts are chosen by. He is in excellent physical condition and had to undergo the same preparation as other members of the crew.
NASA claims that Glenn was chosen because of the contribution he can make to science as a guinea pig for studies on the human aging process. Each day he will have to give blood samples so scientists can study muscle wasting and he must sleep in a cap which is wired to measure his brain waves. It is hoped that information gathered by these studies will provide doctors with new tools in treating elderly Americans.
College sophomore Alison Rettman said, "I thought it was pretty cool when I read he was going back into space."
College first-year Jake Karlins, who watched Glenn's launch, said, "In general space flights seem like publicity stunts to me, but it was still exciting to see an actual spaceship firing up its rockets and soaring into space."
As the shuttle launched into the sky astronauts heard NASA launch commentator Lisa Malone announce,"Liftoff for six American heroes, and one American legend."
Copyright © 1998, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 127, Number 7, October 30, 1998
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