With the passing of John Glenn a couple of days ago, I thought I’d look back at his other spaceflight of note, riding on board Space Shuttle Discovery as a 77 year old mission specialist in the fall of ’98.
The shuttle launches had once again gotten routine, after it was proven in early 1986 that space is indeed a risky business after Challenger’s ill-fated flight. But for a brief bit of time in the fall of 1998, the networks were again captivated by the novelty of it all. The people flocked to the Cape as if it were the launching of one of the Apollo moon missions, and even got delayed for a bit due to a Cessna plane violating launch airspace. (Kind of like a streaker roaming a football field in the 1970’s, I suppose.)
Although it was a fleeting moment of fame for the space program, people stopped what they were doing and watched the event wherever TV’s were available, as even the broadcast networks covered the launch and gave extensive coverage to it. John Glenn and his crew came back to Earth safely, and the shuttle flights went on until the summer of 2011.