Privilege to fly with John Glenn

Privilege to fly with John Glenn

John Glenn and the crew of STS-95 take a traditional photo in flight. Commander Kurt Brown is on the right. Clockwise: pilot Stephen Lindsey, load commander Stephen Robinson, ESA astronaut Pedro Duque, Japanese cosmonaut Chiaki Naito-Mukai and flight engineer Scott Parazinski (NASA)

NASA astronaut Stephen Robinson recalls the chance to accompany one of the childhood heroes of 77-year-old Glenn during the shuttle's record mission.

Stephen was 6.5 years old when John Glenn, a former marine infantry pilot, went aboard Friendship 7 in 1962 to a mission crucial to America’s national security.

35 years later, Robinson met his hero in the most unexpected place: Glenn, who left NASA long ago and was about to end his 24-year-old political career, was about to fly again into space, but this time as an object of study aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in the STS mission -95. Robinson, already an astronaut himself, was responsible for the experiment.

“I was so nervous,” he said. “I thought that I was incredibly lucky not only to see the American icon, but also to tell him what to do. But he was at ease, so the work went well, and we became close friends. ” Over 36 years have passed since Glenn’s 5-hour flight around the planet. But he did not forget the skills and went into space quite naturally.

“He was the only one who didn’t seem new,” said Robinson.

Privilege to fly with John Glenn

Glenn performs camera work in the cockpit of the shuttle during the 1998 mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery (NASA)

During the flight, Robinson and his crew bombarded John with questions about how he was at Friendship 7 and about his experience. “During the story, he did not seem to be a boaster. He was interested not in the past, but in the future. And I saw his desire to change everything for the better, ”said Robinson.

The key difference between flights was the number of people on board. Friendship 7, which made three orbits around the Earth and landed in the ocean, was a solo ship. A shuttle STS-95 has placed 6 members. Although Robinson added that there were almost 7 of them, since the presence of Glenn's wife, Annie, was felt all the time.

“I have never seen two people closer than they,” said Robinson. “We would not have seen John become what he would have been if it were not for Ann Glenn ... These relationships became the basis of his greatness.”

Another difference is Glenn’s ability to actually experience zero gravity and enjoy the view from a height of 340 miles above the planet. During the first flight he was fastened and did not have access to the windows. “He was so happy. His dream came true. After returning to orbit, we could not stop looking at the joy of this guy, ”added Robinson.

Privilege to fly with John Glenn

During the STS-95 mission, Glenn became a science object. Scientists want to find out how the body changes during microgravity conditions (NASA)

One night after dinner, Robinson noticed something on the flight deck of the shuttle. Below the light shone and Glenn just floated, looking out the window. “It was quiet, dark and so beautiful. I asked John what he was doing. And he didn't even turn around. Just said that he is in church. ”

Glenn died Thursday at the 95th year of life. Later that day, his family and colleagues at Ohio University reported that he had departed peacefully and “left this Earth for the third time as a happy and self-realized man.”

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