It's official: Glenn will return to space
January 16, 1998
Web posted at: 1:03 p.m. EST (1803 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- "What an incredible day for John Glenn,
for Ohio, for NASA, but most of all, for America, because the
man who almost 36 years ago climbed into the Friendship 7 and
showed the boundless promise for a new generation, is now
poised to show the world that senior citizens have the right
With those words, NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin confirmed
reports that at age 76, former astronaut John Glenn has been
approved for an October shuttle flight.
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"I'm very proud to have been part of the beginning of America's space program, and needless to say I am excited to be back and I am honored and privileged," Glenn explained.
"But," he said, "It is not important how I feel standing here. The important thing is the opportunity that this gives to take us in some new directions with research and I think that is really what we are kicking off."
Goldin said Glenn's flight, in addition to possibly helping
older Americans live healthier, longer lives, could even
change America, giving grandchildren a different outlook on
their grandparents and inspiring older Americans to take on
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"When somebody ... comes to you and asks, 'I'm willing to
risk my life to benefit the lives of older Americans, can I
go?' the answer is certainly yes," Goldin said. "Today, his
commitment to service ensures that one of the great heroes of
the 20th century will be America's first hero of the 21st
Glenn, now a four-term U.S. senator from Ohio, joined the
ranks of legendary astronauts in 1962, when he squeezed
himself into a small Friendship 7 capsule. He had so little
space that he was jokingly referred to by space officials as
the "man in a can" -- and in a four-hour, 55-minute flight,
he became the first American to orbit the Earth.
At 77 -- his birthday is July 18 -- he would be, by a decade
and a half, the oldest American to go into space. When he
ended his career as an astronaut, he embarked on a successful
But in recent years, he has lobbied NASA extensively to get
the agency to use him for geriatric research, helping to
connect the space agency's researchers with scientists eager
to see how weightlessness may affect human aging.
Glenn, who will fly on a 10-day mission tentatively scheduled
for an October 8 liftoff, said he is mentally and physically
ready for the mission.
"I've tried to keep myself in reasonable physical shape.
NASA does not have a formal training project where everybody
has to run six miles a day or something; they leave it up to
individuals," he said..
Space is a good place for gerontological study, because of
similarities between what happens to a body in zero gravity
and what happens naturally over time on Earth.
In younger astronauts, Glenn said, the "aging" effect
reverses itself when they return to Earth. He hopes to
learn, among other things, whether older people are immune to
that effect, or whether it manifests itself in different ways
in people who have already been through the aging process.
Correspondent John Holliman contributed to this report.