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After Resting, Glenn Is Ready to Go Again

Space: World's oldest astronaut admits to feeling 'woozy' after landing but also has a 'sense of accomplishment.' He and six others made 135 orbits.

November 09, 1998|MIKE CLARY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — Admitting that he felt "a little woozy" after his historic nine-day mission in space, Sen. John Glenn on Sunday said that a hot shower, a reunion with his family and a good night's sleep on Earth had him thinking wistfully about another adventure into orbit.

"Obviously, we'd like to . . . go right back up again, but that's not to be," said Glenn, who at 77 is the world's oldest astronaut. "And so a sense of accomplishment, I guess I feel, and a little bit of a letdown that the whole thing is over, maybe, but nothing serious."

Glenn and six other astronauts made 135 orbits of Earth aboard the shuttle Discovery during a scientific mission in which the Ohio Democrat volunteered for several experiments on the effects of microgravity and aging.

"I didn't feel too hot when I got off yesterday, obviously," said Glenn, who was seen shuffling around the orbiter for a post-flight inspection about two hours after the landing. On the advice of NASA physicians, the news conference scheduled for Saturday evening was postponed.

As unsteady as he was, however, Glenn said he was determined to avoid being carried off in the mobile medical lab that met the astronauts. "You don't know when you come back whether you are going to be so incapacitated that you're on a gurney. Fortunately, I didn't have to do that.

"If I had been on my hands and knees, I was going to do it."

Glenn, a former fighter pilot who in 1962 became the first American launched into orbit, looked cheerful and rested as he fielded reporters' questions on his health, his plans for the future and any personal insights he may have had while circling the planet at an altitude of 350 miles.

The health questions he answered easily. "I'm 95% to 98% readapted, but it will be a few days before I'm completely back to normal, I'm sure," said Glenn, who retires in January after 24 years in the Senate.

Although Glenn is 16 years older than anyone ever to rocket into space, the only medical mishap reported aboard Discovery was a small gash to the forehead of Stephen K. Robinson, 43, who confessed that he smacked his head on a shuttle passageway while floating around in weightlessness.

"As you know, space is a dangerous environment," Robinson joked.

Following the news conference, Glenn and his crew mates returned to Houston's Johnson Space Center, where they will undergo several more weeks of medical tests and will be honored in a parade Wednesday.

Each of the seven astronauts was welcomed back to Earth on Saturday night in a telephone call from President Clinton.

Of his reunion with his wife of 55 years, Glenn said: "Annie was very glad to have me back, and I was glad to see her. It was a very touching moment."

Annie Glenn has already announced that her husband will not take part in any more spaceflights. "She's been through an awful lot. I owe her a little consideration at this point in life, I think."

Glenn sidestepped questions about his burnished stature as an American hero, saying, "I'll leave all that hero and legend business to other people."

But he did have some advice for other senior citizens. "Old folks have ambitions and dreams too, like everyone else, and why don't they work for them? Why don't they go for it? Don't sit on a couch someplace, that's my attitude."

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