Again we say, ‘Godspeed, John Glenn’Published 10:27am Monday, February 27, 2012
Fifty years ago this month John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. The former astronaut and future U.S. senator from Ohio circled the Earth three times in five hours in his Friendship 7 spacecraft.
Back then, most Americans watched the launch on black and white television sets. Speaking on behalf of all of us, during the blastoff in February 1962, Mission Control’s Scott Carpenter said, “Godspeed, John Glenn.”
Those words of good wishes for a person’s success and safety are expressed today, toward Glenn, 90, who is in good health and is mentally alert.
John Glenn’s obit of the earth, seven years before the United States landed men on the moon, was part of an era known as the “golden age of television” and TV news. We had Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, Walter Cronkite and others reporting on the important issues of the day. The three major networks also covered President Kennedy’s weekly press conferences.
Glenn was alone during his historic spaceflight in 1962 but celebrated its 50th anniversary among hundreds of people at Ohio State University, where the public affairs school bears his name.
Asked by reporters about his heroes, Glenn said he admires different qualities in different people, such as the perseverance of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona. She was severely injured in a shooting last year.
Her husband Mark Kelly, a retired astronaut and commander of the space shuttle Endeavour’s final mission, was the featured speaker during the tribute to Glenn. Kelly said he was honored to be sitting between two of his own heroes, Glenn and Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.
Kelly brought the audience a message from his wife: “Be passionate. Be courageous. Be strong. Be your best.”
Armstrong told the audience at the celebratory gala that Glenn was “no ordinary pilot.” There was a need for leadership in the space program in the early 1960s, Armstrong said, and Glenn “literally rose to the occasion.”
Historians say that John Glenn and the other early astronauts from the 1960s strapped themselves close to incredible amounts of explosive fuel and blasted into nothingness. Then, instead of orchestrating a safe and smooth landing (such as later shuttles), they relied on NASA personnel to, in words of engineers, “math their way to a relatively comfortable landing back on earth.”
The renowned former astronaut is a native of Ohio. Glenn served his country during World War II and flew 59 combat missions in the South Pacific. He saw action over the Marshall Islands.
Glenn, after retiring from NASA, entered politics and represented Ohio in the United States Senate from 1974 to 1999.
During his time in the Senate, he served as chairman of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, and sat on the Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees and the Special Committee on Aging.
In 1998 he became the oldest person to fly in space, at age 77, on the Discovery space shuttle mission. NASA, in association with Glenn, studied the effects of space flight on the elderly.
Today, we again say, “Godspeed, John Glenn.”