In his silver suit and white helmet beneath his crew-cut and blue eyes, the astronaut flashed a beaming smile as he crammed into a tiny space capsule. Images of him transmitted from space, however, showed him stoic and clench-jawed.
The proudly square Ohioan was infused with equal measures of humility and steeliness, a balance which, however idealistic, was the example by which parents once encouraged their children to strive towards. Even a young Hillary Rodham Clinton once aspired to wearing a silver suit and being shot into the atmosphere from the Cape Canaveral launchpad in Coco Beach,Florida. Today, July 18, 2011, John Glenn celebrates his 90th birthday.
Nothing lasts forever. Now, the Kardashian sisters qualify as role models. The final flight of the Space Shuttle program earlier this month proved an emotional end for those who made it a point of sitting in sunglasses beneath umbrellas at the Kennedy Space Center to watch each takeoff. It was the last piece in the long line of NASA rocket launches, every one of which once gripped the nation “to interrupt this program with a special report.”
If the shine on the American Space Program dimmed, John Glenn’s courage did not. “Colonel Glenn,” as President Kennedy once heralded him by using his U.S. Marines rank, was 77 years old when, in 1998, he made another trip into space, in the second to last of his 25 years asOhio’s United States Senator. Now a great-grandfather he still lives inOhio, married to his childhood sweetheart Annie for 67 years, still flying his own plane. They plan a cross-country drive later this year.
February 20, 2012 will mark the 50th anniversary of John Glenn’s heroic orbit around the globe, but technology and human nature hasn’t progressed so much that being thrust into the endless unknown of a black abyss isn’t still an act of internal strength and one worth striving towards for any people of any age.
“Godspeed, John Glenn,” as they used to say.