John Glenn: American Hero
It’s a bit nerve-wracking interviewing an American hero, but it remains a highlight of my career at NBC News. Senator John Glenn died yesterday at age 95. But the real news is what an extraordinary life he lived.
We talk a lot these days about space and our ambitions to make it to Mars, but it all had to start somewhere … and it started with Mr. Glenn. He was among the first group of American astronauts ever and he was the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962, circling three times and famously remarking “that view is tremendous!” But he had a scary return to Earth with flaming bits of space craft parts hurtling by his window before he finally plopped safely into the Atlantic Ocean.
And this was all after he was already a war hero fighting in both World War II and the Korean war where he piloted an incredible 149 missions between the two wars and received all sorts of honors. Shortly after the wars, military test pilots could try out for an amazing new idea in the late 1950’s — to fly to space. The Russians were a bit ahead on this so when John Glenn and his crew succeeded, it was an incredible source of pride for America, largely thanks to him.
He was considered too much of a national treasure to risk returning to space, so he continued his life of service as a senator for his home state of Ohio. He did that for nearly 25 years, when, at age 77, NASA called him to return to space to study the effects of an aging body in space. Who better for the job than John Glenn? This time he orbited the Earth 134 times, and made the same joke with his wife as he did the first time he went to space saying, “I’m just going down to the corner store to get a pack of gum.” She’d respond, “Don’t be long.” He remains the oldest person to ever be in space.
Mr. Glenn’s tenacity, work ethic, service, and integrity embodies the best of America. He will be missed. Godspeed, John Glenn.
(commercial originates with NBC News’ video, not HTE Kids News)