Today marks the birth, in 1921, of John Herschel Glenn, Jr, (died December 8th 2016), liver of quite a full life, of Scottish descent (I believe he also had relatives in Sheffield), and born in Cambridge, Ohio. Reading that sentence back the word “liver” sounds a bit anatomical, but I’m going with it anyway.
Glenn was a member of Astronaut Group 1, more commonly known as the Mercury Seven, the original hand-picked, hard-boiled, right-stuff-infused group of astronauts selected by NASA in 1959, who had a presence in all of the classes of manned American spacecraft of the twentieth century (Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Shuttle).
Here’s a potted history of some of John Glenn’s achievements: fighter pilot in the South Pacific, North China and Korea; test pilot; first supersonic transcontinental flight; first American to orbit the Earth; senator (Democrat); oldest person in space.
On a slightly less joyous, less happy-birthday-to-you-ous note, he managed to get himself caught up in the Lincoln Savings and Loan affair, and was for a time opposed to the inclusion of women in NASA’s astronaut program. That said, I still don’t know how a man who had once had a ticker-tape parade through New York in his honour later managed to lose the vice-presidential race to career politician and sometime lawyer Walter Mondale, a man who would later go on to suffer one of the biggest landslide defeats in US presidential election history.
Walter Mondale is of Norwegian descent, and the ancestral family home is the village of Fjærland, on a tributary of the Sognefjord, which gives me an extremely tenuous reason to end with one of my own photographs, taken a mere ten miles or so downstream from chez Mondale in 2010.
1966 – Launch of Gemini X (command pilot John W Young and pilot Michael Collins) from Cape Canaveral launch site LC-19. This was the sixteenth manned American spaceflight.
1997 – Death of Eugene Shoemaker, astrogeologist, and co-discoverer of comets (along with his wife and David Levy). Of their combined tally, the most important was probably Shoemaker-Levy 9, which collided with Jupiter in 1994.