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Glenn revisits the lights of Perth 36 years later

glenn in space
Glenn on Discovery  
October 30, 1998
Web posted at: 1:33 p.m. EST (1833 GMT)

In this story:

SPACE CENTER, Houston (CNN) -- John Glenn's return to space began to resemble a rock band reunion tour on Friday when the citizens of Perth, Australia, greeted Glenn and the shuttle Discovery by turning on their lights, just as they did 36 years ago.

Words from the shuttle:

•Glenn talks with Mission Control
254K/23 sec. AIFF or WAV sound
•Glenn sees Perth, Australia, from Discovery
201K/18 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

"We've got a good view of Perth and there's a nice glow," said Glenn. "A long time ago, I looked at the same thing, but this time it's from a different altitude."

Glenn was silent as he watched the lights pass 351 miles below, then added, "I think it looks even better now than it did back then. I hope we can get a good picture of it. There are two big centers of light. I think Perth has grown a little since the last time. Please pass along our thanks" to the people of Perth.

On his first flight, Glenn saw the lights clearly from his Friendship 7 space capsule, but Discovery was on a more northerly route than Friendship 7 and there was concern that the angle would be too oblique to allow the Discovery crew a good view of the city.

The Perth lights are the latest reminder of Glenn's three-orbit flight in 1962 and his return to Earth as a national hero.

Since Discovery left Cape Canaveral Thursday afternoon, he has acted more like the 40-year-old high-flying space pioneer he was then than the U.S. senator from Ohio he has been since 1975.

inside the shuttle
From left, crew members Chiaki Mukai, John Glenn and Stephen Robinson aboard Discovery during liftoff  

His mission has enthralled Americans and appears to have revived interest in the space program, at least for the eight days and 20 hours of the Discovery's mission. And the years have not dampened Glenn's zest for space.

Louis Armstrong awakens crew

In a video taken inside Discovery shortly after takeoff, Glenn gave a jubilant thumbs-up signal and then clasped the hands of crewmates Stephen Robinson and Chiaki Mukai seated on either side of him.

"It's beautiful up here," Glenn said later as the shuttle flew over Hawaii. "The best part of it is, to do a trite old statement, 'Zero-G and I feel fine.'" Glenn told Mission Control the same thing in 1962.

When the Discovery's flight surpassed Glenn's previous flight time of four hours, 55 minutes and 23 seconds, a jubilant Glenn said, "I'm now doubled on my space time, and building up every second."

The crew awoke at 8:45 a.m. EST Friday morning to the gravelly voice of Louis Armstrong singing "What A Wonderful World."

earth from discovery
View of Earth from Discovery  

"Good morning, Discovery," Mission Control said. "Welcome to a second day in space."

"Thanks, Houston, it's good to be here," a voice on Discovery said.

After breakfast, Cmdr. Curt Brown set up an ergometer -- an exercise machine similar to a recumbent bicycle -- for the crew to use to prevent, or at least delay, the deterioration of their bodies in microgravity.

Glenn, Duque begin work

Glenn and Pedro Duque began work on a protein crystallization experiment and another on the blood collection and temperature recording of his primary job in orbit: studying the effects of weightlessness on the human body.

Glenn is participating in 10 experiments researching links between the effects of space flight and the changes that occur from aging on Earth. The experiments began at bedtime Thursday when he swallowed a capsule that contains a tiny thermometer and a transmitter to measure his body temperature overnight as part of a sleep study.

shuttle location
Shuttle location just before passing over central Mexico at 12:36 p.m. EST (1736 GMT)  

The crew's other duties Friday include deploying the PanSat satellite, a telecommunications device, and testing the shuttle's 50-foot robot arm that will be used Sunday to deploy and later retrieve the Spartan satellite.

Shortly before the crew went to sleep at 12:45 a.m. EST Friday, the flight took another turn down memory lane when Mission Control played a taped farewell from Scott Carpenter, who along with Glenn was one of the original seven astronauts in the U.S. space program.

"At this point in the countdown, it seems appropriate to say to the crew of Discovery -- good luck, have a safe flight and to say once again 'Godspeed John Glenn,'" said Carpenter, who uttered the same salutation just before Glenn rocketed into space in 1962.

Glenn was touched by the words of his old friend.

"That meant a lot to me way back many years ago when Scott came on with that back in '62 and it still means a great deal today," he said. "It sort of caught on again in all the buildup to STS-95, so I appreciate that very much." STS-95 is NASA's designation for the current mission.

Minor glitches

The only flaw in the mission occurred at liftoff when an 11-pound aluminum panel ripped away from the shuttle body and struck the main engine. NASA officials said the panel protected a drag chute that is used during landings, but is not essential and would not affect the mission.

Somewhat overshadowed by the hoopla over Glenn, other history makers are also aboard Discovery.

Thirty-five-year-old mission specialist Duque, who was not born when Glenn made his 1962 flight, is the first Spaniard in space. Payload specialist Mukai, a physician who also has a Ph.D., became the first Japanese woman astronaut to go into space in 1994.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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