“Godspeed John Glenn”

STS-95: a legend flies again

On October 29th, 1998, the first American astronaut to orbit Earth, flew in space for his second and final time.

John Glenn became an American hero when his Friendship 7 capsule flew into space on February 20th, 1962.

That historic flight wasn’t even five hours long, but it secured Glenn a place in the history books, as well as in the hearts of the American public. Glenn was a hero in every sense of the word. He flew combat missions during World War II and the Korean War. After his days as a fighter pilot, Glenn continued to fly, accumulating thousands of hours of flying time.

From left to right. Friendship 7 at liftoff as the Mercury-Atlas booster lifts off from LC-14 at Cape Canaveral. Center, Glenn is seated in his Friendship 7 capsule during the first orbital mission for the United States. Right, Glenn is pictured trying on the suit he would wear during his orbital flight. Picture Credits- NASA.

He was selected as one of the original Mercury Seven astronauts and flew into space on the first American orbital spaceflight, the third flight of Project Mercury. After his time at NASA ended in the mid-1960s, he entered the private sector and began a long-lasting career in politics.

Winning four consecutive terms as the Senator from Ohio, Glenn was a member of the Senate when he flew into space on the STS-95 mission. His flight on the Shuttle was the third time that a sitting politician flew into space.

STS-95 was a nearly nine-day shuttle mission that conducted biomedical research on Senator Glenn. The measurements obtained during the shuttle mission were compared with the data that was gathered during Glenn’s flight on Friendship 7 from 1962.

Liftoff of STS-95 from two angles. Picture Credit- NASA.

Thirty-six years had elapsed between Glenn’s first and second spaceflight. One of the studies conducted on Glenn focused on how astronauts sleep in space. The 90-minute orbit of Earth can interfere with the circadian rhythm of astronauts which causes sleep problems. Sleep disorders are also common among the elderly back here on Earth, so his flight into space at the age of 77 gave scientists a unique test subject.

I remember my grandpa and grandma talking about this shuttle mission, and I remember seeing the news that Glenn was going to fly into space again. I was eleven when the launch took place and watched news coverage of Glenn and the other astronauts preparing to board the Shuttle.

Even though I didn’t see this launch live, it’s one of those positive and unifying experiences that will always be with me, and all of us for that matter. Glenn’s flight transcended generations. Younger people watched as one of the heroes of the space race was launched into orbit, one last time.

The crew of STS-95 during training on the left, per NASA “Pictured, from the left, are Pedro Duque, Curtis Brown, Chiaki Nauto-Mukai, then-U.S. Sen. John H. Glenn Jr. (D.-Ohio), Stephen Robinson, Steven Lindsey and Scott Parazynski.” On the right, the crew while in space. Picture and caption credit- NASA.

I think that his second flight lived up to the namesake of his first spacecraft, Friendship 7. Glenn’s travels into space were in the spirit of friendship, and it’s only fitting that during his Shuttle flight he was part of a multinational crew, underscoring the bond that had been achieved for countries to take part in spaceflight together.

STS-95 is also remembered for the other astronauts that flew to space with Senator Glenn. Among the crew were Chiaki Mukai, the first female astronaut from Japan, and Pedro Duque, the first Spanish astronaut.

The spirit of friendship was alive and well on this shuttle mission, as it was on Shuttle flights and as it continues to be on the International Space Station.

Hosts The Space Shot & The Cosmosphere Podcast. Podcaster. Techie. Bibliophile. Space science & history nerd.

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