Today, the RedState Department of History honors an anniversary belonging to one of the Mercury Seven – not for the first time he went into space, but for the second.
On this date in 1998, the Space Shuttle Discovery launched on STS-95, a nine-day mission around the Earth. Aboard was 77-year old John Glenn, who on that date became the oldest person ever to fly in space.
Of course, Glenn’s history was made many years before. A combat veteran of both World War II and the Korean conflict, Glenn was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross twice in World War II after flying 59 combat missions in F4U Corsairs as a member of the Marine Corps.
In Korea, his wingman was often none other than Ted Williams, the Boston Red Sox ace who was also a fine pilot in his own right. There, Glenn flew 90 more missions, shot down three enemy fighters on the last nine days of his tour, and earned another DFC plus eight Air Medals.
After the war, he also completed the first coast-to-coast supersonic flight and was already a national hero when he was selected to be one of America’s first seven astronauts.
Glenn became the third American to fly in space and the first to orbit the Earth, when he flew in Friendship 7 on February 20, 1962. Four hours, 55 minutes and 23 seconds after launch, Glenn’s star was brighter than ever when he splashed down after three orbits of the Earth.
At that point in time, Glenn retired from NASA to get into politics (unfortunately on the wrong side), but when NASA came calling again in the late 1990s, Glenn was there to answer the call. The agency wanted to study the effects of space upon aging and Glenn, ever the adventurer, simply could not resist the opportunity. Upon the announcement he would fly again, Glenn said:
“Old folks have dreams and ambitions too, just like everybody else. Don’t sit on a couch someplace.”
And while training to go back into space, Glenn used his customary self-effacing sense of humor to describe the process:
“Quite often, while I’m getting up in the morning, I think my warranty is running out on these body parts because it’s not working quite the way it used to.”
But once Discovery made orbit, Glenn’s mission became a tour de force. As a sitting Senator from Ohio, Glenn became the third sitting member of Congress to go into space (Jake Garn and Bill Nelson were the others). Glenn spent nine days in space and made 134 orbits of Earth on a trip of 3.6 million miles, quite an improvement from his 1962 trip, and helped the crew complete 83 science projects along the way.
John Glenn passed away December 8, 2016 at the age of 95 – truly having lived the adventurous life he craved. Happy Sunday and enjoy today’s open thread!