Throughout my lifetime, as with most people, there have been certain people who stand out as role models and heroes that I have looked up to and revered. When I was 5 years old it was a police officer who was a family friend. That was back in the day when motorcycle cops actually stood at busy intersections and directed traffic. He wore the high boots and motorcycle uniform toped off with his cap. He even wore the white gloves so his hands could be better seen by the motorists.
In previous articles I have explained my avid interest in the space program and that I actually watched it from its very beginning.
In the 1960s a new breed of hero emerged on the scene. They even made a movie about how they had the “Right Stuff.” They were test pilots who went through the most rigorous testing ever devised to make sure they could survive the G-forces exerted on the human body when launched skyward by a very powerful booster rocket. The first seven “astronauts’ as they called them were used to flying jet planes and pushing them as far as they could. The called it “pushing the envelope.”
One particular individual emerged as a stand-out hero and that man was John Glenn. He wasn’t the first human in space not even the first American to leave the earth. What he was though was the first American to make three orbits around Earth. The reason I am writing about him now is that, I’m sure you already heard about it, he passed away December 8th at the age of 95. That means that another one of my heroes and role models is gone.
NASA has a webpage that details the life of John Herschel Glenn, Jr. who “was born July 18, 1921, in Cambridge, Ohio. He attended primary and secondary schools in New Concord, Ohio. He received a bachelor of science degree in engineering from Muskingum College in New Concord.” “Glen entered the Naval Aviation Cadet Program in March 1942. He graduated and was commissioned in the Marine Corps in 1943.” “He spent a year flying F-4U fighters in the Marshal Islands. ” That was in WWII and he later became an instructor in advanced flight training.
He flew 63 missions over Korea with the Marine Fighter Squadron 311. John attended test pilot school and the University of Maryland.That sort of catches you up with a thumbnail sketch of his life before the space program.
His flight had been postponed more than once, but he finally blasted into space February 20, 1962 aboard his “Friendship-7” space capsule. He was supposed to make seven orbits around the earth, but technical problems cut it short to only three orbits. The guidance system failed and he had to pilot the craft himself to a safe splashdown in the ocean.
Those Mercury-7 astronauts were asked for input concerning development of future spacecraft and John Glenn specialized in cockpit layout and control functioning which included some of the early designs for the Apollo project that took three astronauts into space at the same time.
He resigned from the astronaut corps January 16, 1964 and in October of that year was promoted to the rank of colonel and retired from the Marine Corps. Zooming along, Glenn became active in politics in Ohio and was elected to the Senate in 1974. He was re-elected in 1980. He held the office for 4 terms and became the first Ohioan to win 4 consecutive terms.
In 1998 John Glenn accomplished another first. By flying on the STS-95 Discovery Space Shuttle flight’s 9-day mission he became the oldest person on record to fly in space at the age of 77.
Just this past Sunday December 11th the CBS-TV Sunday Morning program aired a story by reporter Bill Flanagan about his meeting and interview with John Glenn. He explained that he didn’t want to ask one of the standard questions that every reporter asks a hero like John Glenn so he asked a question whose answer I’d be willing to bet none of you knew. I know I never heard this fact before. He asked Glenn if he ever met Charles Lindbergh and the story Glenn told was amazing. Lindbergh had volunteered as a civilian pilot during WWII because he couldn’t get into any of our armed forces. As it turned out a young pilot, John Glenn, was assigned to protect Lindbergh while he was flying aircraft with no armament. For a more detailed look at what Glenn told Flanagan you can go to This CBS site.
I started out by saying that another hero of mine was gone and the one thing in life that you learn is that the older you get the more relatives, friends, and even heroes you lose on your journey through life.
Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: email@example.com.