Monday, December 12, 2016

A Tribute to John Glenn

John Glenn's passing at the age of 95 marks the loss of another of our great space exploration pioneers. Most of the headlines have called him a hero, and he was that, but he was also quite modest. I heard him speak at Harvard several years ago, and he commented on that appelation somewhat wryly. He said something like, "When I get up in the morning and start dressing, I don't say, 'The hero is now putting on his socks.'"

He accomplished a lot in his long lifetime, including being a fighter pilot, a record-setting aviator, the first American to go into orbit, a US Senator, and the oldest person to fly in space at the age of 77. As far as I know, the only big failure in his life was that he ran for the Democratic nomination for the presidency and lost. Not a bad record, overall.

But I think it is more important that he was a decent and good person.

I regret that I was not successful in interviewing him for my book, but I did use excerpts from his own book to provide some insight into his experience of the Overview Effect. Here are a few excerpts:

Now, for the first time, I could look out the window and see  back along the flight path. I could not help exclaiming over the radio about what I saw. "Oh,"  I said,  "that  view is tremendous!" It really was. I could see for hundreds  of miles in every direction-the sun on white clouds, patches of blue water beneath, and great chunks of Florida and the southeastern United States.

While I was reporting in by radio to the Canary Island tracking sta­tion, I had my first glimpse of the coast of Africa. The Atlas Mountains were clearly visible through the window. Inland, I could see huge dust storms from brush fires raging along the edge of the desert. (1)

Thank you for sharing that "tremendous view" with us, John Glenn!

(1) Carpenter, M.S., et al., We Seven, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1962.

(c) Copyright, Frank White, 2016, All Rights Reserved.

The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution, AIAA, 2014, www.

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