Down To Earth With John Glenn

Investigators examine a crime scene blocked by tarps in the parking lot and entrance of a United States Postal Service mail facility in Goleta, Calif., Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2006.
Sen. John Glenn, America's first man to orbit Earth, is now in his late seventies, and he's riding into the late 1990s on the next space shuttle mission, scheduled for October 29.

CBS News Anchor Dan Rather interviewed Glenn at Johnson Space Center in Houston. Below are excerpts from the interview.

  • Rather: I asked him about talk [about the issue] that, at 77, he may be too old for orbit.
  • Glenn: I would not be on this if the doctors at National Institute of Aging and NASA weren't all in agreement there's a lot to be learned in this particular area by sending an older person up. And that was the criteria when I first suggested this.
In exactly two weeks, John Glenn is scheduled to become America's oldest man in space. He'll be the subject of experiments comparing the effects of weightlessness to the effects of aging.

This marks the return of the man who put the United States back in the space race in 1962 with three orbits of the earth in the tiny Mercury capsule.

  • Rather: What's the biggest difference between going into space today and when you did it in the early 1960s?
  • Glenn: Oh, I think the biggest difference is, back in those days, we didn't know whether we could do this thing or not. And so we were trying to find out, you know. Some doctors predicted your eyeballs would change shape and you wouldn't be able to see, or your ears, the fluid in the inner ear would give you such vertigo and nausea you wouldn't be able to know what was going on, you would just be out of it.

    And now here we are 120-some flights later each flight having built on the last, and we're now out there on the cutting edge of science where on this one flight we'll have 83 different science research projects. It's exciting to see some of these things, and what we may learn and the impact of it on medicine and on people's lives and you and me and our kids.

  • Rather:Did you expect to see a lift-off with humans headed for Mars?
  • Glenn: In my lifetime? Oh, in the next - let's say I'm fortunate and go to say 15 or 20 years - maybe in that length of time, possibly. But the people who think we ought to just establish a program now and spend whatever is necessary to get there, we do have other national concerns.

    You can see much more of the CBS John Glenn interview during the CBS News live coverage of his planned return to space on a shuttle mission scheduled for liftoff October 29.

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