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E-mail From Washington

From: CNN
In: Washington, D.C.
Posted 6-23-97

Subject: NASA Discusses One Last Mission For John Glenn

Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio), the first American to orbit the Earth, wants to become the oldest American to orbit the Earth and a NASA tells CNN the space agency has had a talk with the Senator to discuss the possibility.

Glenn, who turns 76 next month, has volunteered for a space shuttle mission if NASA decided there was a need to study how weightlessness affects an older human, Glenn press secretary Brian McCleary told CNN.

While there is no mission now planned, a NASA official told the Orlando Sentinel that the space agency is interested in increasing research on how space alters the aging process.

"NASA has discussed the idea with the senator, and we are giving it further consideration," NASA spokesman Michael Braukus told the paper.

NASA director of public affairs Peggy Wilhyde tells CNN that there is no program underway to put the senator on a shuttle, but, "If the first man to orbit the earth calls and wants to talk about returning to the astronaut [program] you certainly take his call." Glenn was actually the first American in orbit.

The senator's spokesman, Jack Sparks, tells CNN there is no program to study the effects of space flight on older people, but Glenn has made the offer and told anyone who would listen that he wants to help conduct such a study if NASA wants to do it.

On February 20, 1962, Glenn circled the Earth three times in Mercury VI.

After leaving the space program, he entered private business and was later elected to represent Ohio in the U.S. Senate, a job he's held for the last 22 years. In 1984, he made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.

On February 20, 1997, the 35th anniversary of his space flight, Glenn announced that he would not seek another term for the Senate in 1998, noting that he would be 83-years-old when that term ended.

"When I leave the Senate, it will not be the end, but a new beginning," he told supporters.

McCleary told CNN that it is "a fun idea" to consider another space mission for his boss.

After the Challenger accident, which killed teacher Christa McAuliffe, NASA adopted a policy of not taking civilians into space, and NASA administrator Dan Goldin tells CNN there are no plans to change that policy until the shuttle is made much more reliable than it is today.

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