Monday, July 18, 2011

Happy 90th Birthday to John Glenn, American Hero!

There's nothing we like around here more than astronauts, and today, July 18th, is the 90th birthday of one of the greatest -- John Glenn, born on this day in 1921.  As the fifth person ever into space, and the first American to orbit the planet, John Glenn would forever be enshrined in the history books, not just for his outstanding achievement but also for his continued service to America as a popular Senator from Ohio and Presidential candidate in 1984.  It seems inconceivable these days that someone with as much courage and gumption as Glenn would be a politician seeking to lead America -- all we get seem to get nowadays are businessmen, billionaires and crackpots!  But once there was a time when such men walked in America, and John Glenn was the real deal with the Right Stuff.

John Glenn was one of the group of astronauts known as the Mercury 7.  Many of you were probably not even born when Glenn took his landmark flight on Friendship 7 on February 20, 1962, but Americans fell in love with John Glenn on that day and he never lost his standing as one of America's genuine heroes.  Forgive those of us who were around for being nostalgic about those days, but it was truly a magic time, with John F. Kennedy as President, guiding America as the country reached for the stars with palable national pride in the achievement. 

This is a great time to revisit the 1963 documentary The John Glenn Story, introduced by President Kennedy.  You can watch it here, now, courtesy of the National Archives.

John Glenn wasn't about to miss out on NASA's Space Shuttle program, and to much fanfare became the oldest astronaut to fly into space when he boarded the Discovery in late October of 1988 for his mission.  The seventy-seven-year-old then-Senator Glenn got some flack for going back into space, but doesn't that criticism seem absurd now?  Imagine if NASA had buckled and not let him go on small-minded would that have been?  Glenn was an Astronaut Hero and needed to be there, and he was.

This is a clip from The John Glenn Story by Michael Lawrence Films.

You might like also to take a look at these compiled TV spots from his Presidential bid in 1984.

Here's John Glenn giving a speech at an event celebrating NASA's 50th Anniversary in 2008.  He has a charming self-deprecating quip at the beginning, and he's completely awesome throughout!

John Glenn is also a participant in the annual John H. Glenn lecture at the National Air and Space Museum, this one from 2009, celebrating the Apollo 11 mission.  The whole event -- 7 parts in all -- is fascinating and also features Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin.  Glenn's individual part begins in Part 3.  This is beautiful quality and thrilling stuff!  Click on the above link to go to the first part.

You'll also want to go to the website of the John & Annie Glenn Historic Site in New Concord, Ohio, and you'll probably want to make a physical pilgrimmage there after seeing the virtual version. 

Life magazine online just released a batch of unpublished John Glenn photos from their archives; take a look at them here at this link.

NASA has a Glenn Research Center named in honor of John Glenn, with a lot of terrific information.  Be sure to try the interactive feature of Glenn's life and career!

Paul Barosse, on his "Paul's Voyage of Discovery & Etc." blog had a wonderful post last week entitled "Growing Up in the Space Age".  You should read it; it is superb and fascinating.  He charmingly ties his own childhood in with the excitement of the space program, and it's terrific.  Kudos to him!  Read it!

We also love that John Glenn, as a character, was one of the most exciting parts of Phillip Kaufman's superb 1983 film adaptation of Tom Wolfe's non-fiction book The Right Stuff, about the Race to Space.  As played by Ed Harris, Kaufman's version of Glenn is the ultimate clean Marine, a charming, self-effacing but proud over-achiever who becomes a media darling but remains a dedicated team player and makes all of America proud.  Here's the trailer for the film, plus an amusing scene where Glenn's competitive spirit really comes out.  If you haven't watched this film lately, you need to.  It's exciting, biting, funny, and thrilling.  Not a moment isn't amazing.  Watch it! 

What else can we say?  John Glenn embodies all that we hope America is, was...could be.  He's also a wonderful example of growing old with brilliance and fortitude.

Happy Birthday, John Glenn!  We love you!


Jane said...

Love, love, love this tribute post to an American hero! It makes me feel the excitement of John Glenn's wonderful career. It makes me want to watch The Right Stuff again for about the billionth time. It makes me want to wail and grind my teeth because we don't have a manned space program anymore. Just LOVE this post, thank you Lisa!

Suzi said...

John Glenn is from my home state of Ohio, and we are mighty proud of him. Thanks for remembering him, and I am completely bummed that there is not a manned space program anymore.

Lisa said...

John Glenn is totally amazing! What an incredible individual! In my haste to get this up I left out a really good link to check out; in the last part of the tribute I added a a link to Paul Barosse's "Growing Up in the Space Age" post on his blog -- I think you will love it if you are a baby boomer space-aholic!

I definitely have to watch "The Right Stuff" again now -- I need to see that pointy-faced nurse again peeking into the isolation chamber! Classic! What a movie!

We love John Glenn!! xoxoxoxoxo

John White said...

What a fantastic tribute to John've done a wonderful job...the "John Glenn Story" is amazing...never saw it before...great color intro by JFK & Jack Webb as the narrator...doesn't get any better than this. Thanks & my best wishes to John Glenn on his 90th Birthday.
Thanks Lisa for the great tribute & hey thanks for becoming a follower of JFK50!