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Returning To The Final Frontier

Decades after he helped launch America's space program, the pioneering astronaut is granted the chance to conquer space again -- as an old man. It's a plot so rich that Hollywood might have rejected it for being unrealistic, reports CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.

However, people young enough to be John Glenn's great grandchildren are working to get him back off the ground.

"I never thought I'd be able to go again," said Glenn. "And who would ever have thought that age would become an advantage instead of a disadvantage?"


Age is an advantage because it's exactly what convinced NASA that Glenn is uniquely qualified for experiments on the amazing similarities between what happens to the human body in space and what happens as we age -- something Glenn began noticing years ago.

"Almost everyone knows somebody, some elderly person who's fallen and broken their hip because of weak bones, osteoporosis," said Glenn. "That process starts in the younger astronauts up there right now...Muscle mass and strength breaks down up there. Well, it breaks down with the elderly right here on earth, and not all just because lack of exercise."


The new mission is all about science, and clearly lacks the cold war overtones of Glenn's first trip back in 1962.

"We were in a competition with the Soviets and they beat us," said Glenn. "We were trying to put a satellite up. We had failed -- and they put Sputnik up. And they taunted us! They said America was going to bed every night below a soviet 'moon,' as they called it,"

Glenn's three orbits around earth rescued America's pride. Today, even NASA insiders are worried that the 77 year old's return to space could be a terrible risk.

"I'm not interested in making this a suicide mission," said Glenn. "I am as interested in coming back as anybody else."

And, America will be watching. Perhaps not with the same awe as when Glenn crammed himself into Friendship 7 all those years ago. But amazed nonetheless that something else we once never dreamed possible, is coming true.

Reported by Sharyl Attkisson
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