John Glenn (born 1921), the oldest person to fly in space, is this week’s #RespectYourElders feature.
Glenn trained as a military pilot and served in World War II and the Korean War as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. He later served as a test pilot and completed the first transcontinental flight that averaged supersonic speeds in 1957. In the late 1950s, Glenn entered the space program, becoming the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962. This flight made Glenn a nationally-celebrated figure.
After retiring from NASA and the Marine Corps, Glenn enter the world of business and began to seek political office. He served as a U.S. senator from Ohio from 1974 to 1999. It was during his time as a U.S. senator, in 1998, that Glenn returned to space at age 77. Glenn served as Payload Specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. His journey also provided data for the study of space flight’s effects on older adults as compared to younger people.
After Glenn’s return to Earth, the New York Times reported that “John Glenn endured the effects of spaceflight as well as, if not better than, the younger astronauts who accompanied him on his nine-day space shuttle mission.”
Dr. David Williams, director of the Life Science Center at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, said this of Glenn’s mission and health: ”The results are inherently exciting because they challenge the concept of the elderly being frail individuals.”
John Glenn currently serves as an adjunct professor at Ohio State University’s John Glenn College of Public Affairs.
Image by U.S. Congress, in the public domain.
Source: The New York Times: Glenn Rated as A-O.K. After Spaceflight