It’s been almost sixty years since John Herschel Glenn Jr. became the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth. On February 20, 1962, as a part of NASA’s Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6) mission, Glenn spent five hours orbiting the blue planet three times in the spacecraft Friendship 7. A little known fact to some (like me) is that the mission had been delayed six times before that date.
After the Soviet Union sent the first person, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin (Fun Fact: He had the same birthday as me, say whaaaaa?), into space in April 1961, the United States also aspired to quickly catapult an American astronaut into orbit the same calendar year; however, the original launch date, January 16, 1962, was postponed to January 23rd due to issues with the fuel tanks for the Atlas 109-D launch vehicle. I mean, that’s a pretty good reason.
Four days later on January 27th, Glenn was strapped in and ready to go when the flight director called off the launch due to the overcast weather, which would inhibit the necessary photo coverage. Sooooo….February 1st became the next date in the books; but a few days beforehand, technicians (thankfully) discovered a fuel leak that had soaked some important components of the rocket. I don’t know about you, folks, but if I were John Glenn at this point, I’d be sweatin’ a little.
This pushed the launch date to February 14th, and alas, the day was uncooperative for both weather and love alike; therefore, February 20, 1962 ended up being the serendipitous day of this American spaceflight. Fun Fact: Until this time, NASA had not attempted to send a human into orbit yet; though they had just successfully sent Enos, a chimpanzee, into space in November 1961. Imagine what Enos told his friends about that trip.
John Glenn was a distinguished fellow. Also having served as a United States Marine Corps aviator, an engineer and a politician, Glenn gave back to the people of his home state for many years. From 1974 (following his retirement from NASA) to 1999, Democratic Senator Glenn proudly represented Ohio – and even found time to dance with stars again at the age of 77 during Space Shuttle Discovery’s STS-95 mission. Fun Fact: This made him a) the oldest person to fly into space and b) the only person to fly in both the Mercury and Space Shuttle programs.
Upon reading up on John Glenn, I noticed that his wife, Annie, is a badass lady. Not only was she married for over seventy years to the same fella, which is adorable and commendable, she literally just turned 100 a few days ago and she’s still kickin’ butt and takin’ names. As someone who has experienced a debilitating speech stutter since adolescence, Annie has been an advocate for people with disabilities and communication disorders for pretty much her entire life. People like her own father, who also had a speech impediment.
I found this tidbit to be especially interesting. At the age of 53, Annie apparently attended a life-changing three-week treatment course at Hollins Communications Research Institute in Roanoke, Virginia. It’s said that after her participation in the treatment, her speech improved immensely and she was able to effectively communicate with others – even give public speeches on the campaign trail to support her husband. This also provided more of an outlet for her to engage in working as an advocate and activist for communicative disorders.
Sadly, John Glenn passed away in December 2016, but his wife is clearly continuing to be a force of nature – which I’m sure would make him proud. It would be fun to ramble on and on about how these two were a sweet, long-lasting love story, but someone already did a fabulous job of that and I enjoyed this short read about cool Annie and John facts.
Give it a read when you can, and many thanks for your many forms of service in and out of space, Mr. John Herschel Glenn. Jr. As for you, Annie – stay classy and keep kickin’ assy! Hugs!