Glenn Dropped From Experiment

John Glenn will not participate in an experiment to evaluate the effectiveness of the hormone melatonin during his upcoming shuttle flight, CBS News Space Consultant Bill Harwood reports.

The space agency is scrambling to reverse a major public relations flub that's raising new questions about whether its star astronaut, Glenn, is fit to fly, and what the mission's real purpose is.

And whatever Glenn's medical problem is, NASA insists he's still fit to fly. But by keeping quiet about his removal from one experiment, the space agency inadvertently added fuel to the argument that Glenn's presence on the mission has little real scientific purpose, reports CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.

In July, Glenn participated in diagnostic trials in Boston to determine his eligibility for experiments proposed for shuttle mission STS-95. One suite of experiments is devoted to learning more about sleep patterns and disorders by measuring brain wave activity, eye movement, respiration, and the effectiveness of melatonin, a hormone that appears to aid sleep and reduce fatigue.

In August, after data collected during the Boston trials were evaluated, Glenn was deemed ineligible for the melatonin portion of the shuttle experiment, according to Peggy Wilhide, associate administrator for public affairs at NASA headquarters.

In keeping with a long-standing medical privacy policy, Wilhide would not discuss the reasons behind the decision other than to say it has nothing to do with Glenn's ability to withstand the rigors of a shuttle flight.

"The [melatonin] investigator has very stringent exclusionary requirements, which means it's fairly easy to get excluded [from the clinical trial]," she told CBS News.

The findings could mean that Glenn shouldn't take melatonin or it could mean that his experiments wouldn't give the results researchers were looking for. Neither NASA nor Glenn will explain which is the case.

Even without this experiment, Glenn will have his days in space filled with other experiments, says Harwood.

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