Florida Today from Cocoa, Florida on January 16, 1998 · Page 10
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Florida Today from Cocoa, Florida · Page 10

Cocoa, Florida
Issue Date:
Friday, January 16, 1998
Page 10
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"1 0 A B FLORIDA TODAY, Friday, January 1 6, 1 998 E T Shuttle flight would make senator oldest space traveler Scientists discuss! what weight space tests would offer &s x v- WTZH I If -, -asr im ,, . ; I' 1H 1 v GLENN, From 1A The idea is for Glenn to serve as a test subject for experiments that could shed light into the human aging process as well as immune system disorders, muscular dystrophy and osteoporosis, a bone-weakening disease that afflicts the elderly. Space is said to be an ideal place for such studies because the weightless environment triggers a general weakening of the human immune system as well as the skeletal and muscular systems. As part of his lobbying effort, Glenn has pointed out that NASA flight surgeons have been collecting medical data on him for 40 years. That data includes information gathered during training for his February 1962 flight and subsequent yearly physicals. Flight surgeons and researchers would be able to compare that medical history with data collected on a shuttle flight, the senator has said. The scientific validity of such experiments is no small consideration. "To me, the real question is this: Is there a plausible scientific justification for Glenn being aboard. And, frankly, I'm trying to get somebody at NASA to tell me that," said John Logsdon, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University in Washington, D C. Some critics of the idea are more harsh. "I'll tell (you) what it's not: It's not part of any coherent medical study. If that were true, NASA would send its own astronauts, wouldn't they?" said Alcestis "Cookie" Oberg, a space program analyst in Houston. Oberg and others say if NASA was serious about medical research into the aging process, the agency would fly former astronaut Story Musgrave. NASA she said, has a far more extensive medical database on Musgrave, 62, a six-mission veteran who retired last year because he was told he would not be granted another flight Musgrave, meanwhile, is remaining above the fray. "I just think it's John Glenn's and NASA's day," Musgrave said. "It's neat for John. It's really nice." With the scientific merit of the flight coming into question, Oberg claims the flight is a "political payoff" for Glenn's role as of the recent Senate investieations MUSGRAVE 0 Clinton administration campaign finances. Glenn played a key role in making sure the administration's point of view was heard at those hearings. "I can't imagine it not being a political payoff," Oberg said. "Why else would you fly a 76-year-old wheeze however, dismissed such talk. "Is this a political payoff? I don't think so," Logsdon said. "Did it get Glenn's pleas to let him fly heard by the president? It would be naive to think that it didn't. But that just gets you in the door." Logsdon and others, meanwhile, noted that Glenn is not exactly frail. He exercises daily, lifts weights, pilots his own airplane and even set a speed record in 1996 in his twin-engine Beechcraft Baron. And there are those who say the medical experiments Glenn and the NIH have developed do indeed have scientific merit. "Let me put it this way: We'd be doing them anyway if he wasn't doing them," said Jerry Grey, director of science and technology policy for the American Institute of Aero- GIEK American hero World War II and Korean War ace. First American to orbit Earth. U.S. senator. Presidential candidate. John Glenn's service to his country has involved him in some of the most important events in U.S. history. Now, as his political career ends, one of America's most famous space heroes will become the world's oldest astronaut. July 18, 1921 John Glenn born in Cambridge, Ohio. He was raised in nearby New Concord. n 1943 Ml v-- JOHN GLENN is photographed Feb. ilt.... mink At IN MARCH 1983, Glenn announced . V j President 84 Congress reacts favorably Gannett News Service WASHINGTON John Glenn's flight on a shuttle won favorable reaction in Congress on Thursday. "John Glenn is a living American legend," said Rep. Tim Roemer, D-Ind., who is perhaps best known in Washington for his & 6 1 would like to consider I was a figurehead for this whole big, tremendous effort, and I am very proud of the medal I have on my lapel. J 5 John Glenn at a reception at Cape Canaveral where he was presented NASA's Distinguished Service Medal, Feb. 23, 1962 nautics and Astronautics. "He is not the only one who could do them. But why not have John Glenn do those experiments instead of John Smith?" One reason, some say, is the double-edged sword a Glenn flight would be for NASA in terms of public relations and the agency's image. On one hand, the return to space of the celebrated fly boy would generate a lot of press for an agency that needs attention to continue its funding. As a public relations coup, it could outrank the July 4 Mars Pathfinder landing. On the other hand, a launch disaster and the death of a senator and national hero on what some see as a $400 million joy ride would not bring July 1957 As Navy and Marine test pilot, Glenn becomes first person to fly from Los Angeles to New York nonstop at supersonic speed - 1945 P 1950-1953 Glenn sees combat duty in Korean War. flying 90 missions. He is awarded four Distinguished Flying Crosses and eight Air Medals. Glenn (lies 89 missions as Marine pilot over Marshall Islands during Work) War IT. receiving Iwo Distinguished Flying Crosses and 10 Air Medals. "'"0 '5-4 FLORIDA TODAY file photo 20, 1962, when he became the first American to orbit the Earth. . ?. M. FLORIDA TODAY file photo his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the 1984 presidential race. annual attempts to end funding for the space station. "He is a living legend. I think ; critics don't have ground to stand on." "This will bring a lot of publicity to our manned spaceflight program," said Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Palm Bay. glowing headlines from the nation's newspapers. "Clearly, there is a downside risk if there is a problem on the flight," Logsdon said. "But Glenn certainly understands the risks, having taken much greater risks 36 years ago," he said. "And NASA ought to understand the risks having gone through the Challenger accident and the Christa McAuliffe experience in 1986." A New Hampshire schoolteacher, McAuliffe was one of seven killed when shuttle Challenger exploded 12 years ago Jan. 28. At one time, McAuliffe's backup, teacher Barbara Morgan of McCall, Idaho, had been promised the first spot if NASA resumed its civilian program. Feb. 20, 1962: Glenn April 1959 Named one of original Mercury 7 astronauts. $ $ jfr k. I Jit L. ''fair 0 M : I 1 . .'. 4 i I t . r Ik' ft iwwJ L to decision "It has the potential to open the whole issue of non-astronauts flying." "I'm very pleased," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. "John Glenn is one of the last remaining American heroes. "This is a very appropriate way for him to ride into the sunset." However, Morgan said last summer she has no compunction about taking a back seat to Glenn. She still hopes to follow soon after, however. She said her trip would encourage students to learn about space. Glenn's flight in 1962 allowed the United States to turn Glenn into a worldwide symbol of American know-how and courage, even though Friendship? was aloft for only four hours, 56 minutes. "It was extremely dangerous at that time," Chris Kraft, flight director for the early flights, recalled Thursday. And the world's reaction was amazing. "People were standing on the streets in Tokyo, all over the world, awaiting his safe return and listening to the operation as it took place," Kraft said. The jury still is out in terms of the court of public opinion on the proposed shuttle flight. But Grey suspects the average Joe will give the flight a vigorous thumbs up. "I think if you went out and canvassed 100 people, 90 of them would say, 'Hey, it's a great idea,' " Grey said. "Even if it is not for science but a lifetime achievement award so what? The question is: Why not?" V becomes first American to orbit Earth. Nov. 1970 Runs for U.S. Senate in Ohio again but loses to parking lot businessman, Howard Metzenbaum. 1 71 y rm Jan. 1964 Q p Runs as a "p Democrat for U S. Senate in Ohio but drops out of race. M870 By Robyn Suriano FLORIDA TODAY CAPE CANAVERAL It's known that older people on Earth and astronauts in space confront the same kind of ailments: weak bones and muscles, disturbed sleep patterns and blood-flow problems. What is less certain is whether sending 76-year-old John Glenn on a shuttle flight in October can yield scientific information that would help either group combat those. "It's one of the big unknowns," said Pat Dasch, executive director of the National Space Society, a space-exploration advocacy group in Washington, D.C. "We haven't flown an older person like this before, so you can't say for sure, but there are comparisons in what happens to the body in space and what happens in aging, so it's certainly possible that we can learn something useful from flying (Glenn)." The debate will hit full tilt today when NASA officials tout the potential benefits of medical research as a main reason for sending Glenn back into space. The U.S. senator, who will be 77 by the time his flight begins, is expected to carry out experiments that could shed light onto the aging process, immune system disorders, muscular dystrophy and osteoporosis, a bone-weakening disease that afflicts the elderly. Some researchers said Thursday that a single shuttle mission with an elderly flier would have limited value. "The thing with any experiment when you have a subject of one is that you can't get anything conclusive," said Dava Newman, an associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "But you NASA decision excites Mercury colleagues MERCURY, From 1A Though Glenn was in orbit only four hours, 56 minutes on his single voyage, Musgrave said the senator can count his jet pilot days as experience. "He had an immense background in military aviation; that is worth something," Musgrave said. "He will do fine." Musgrave said he thinks NASA should experiment with sending people of both genders as well as all races, nationalities and ages into space. "I would like to see them fly a child into space. You would learn a lot, say about locomotion capabilities," he said. T.J. O'Malley of Cocoa Beach, a retired booster test conductor who pushed the button on the launch pad for Glenn's 1962 flight, said "Glenn takes good care of himself, and if he is in shape should go up there." Residents in Brevard and Indian River counties had mixed emotions about Glenn's return to space but generally said they liked the idea. Doug Jones of Palm Bay, echoing some of NASA's veterans, said, "Everything is risky." "I think it's a good idea for him to go out again since he was the first out there. If we're going to die, we're going to die. You might as well die doing what makes you happy," Jones said. Carmen Romero of Palm Bay said she was torn about Glenn's sequel. "I wonder whether he's physically fit to do what he's doing," said Romero, a health care worker who has followed Glenn's saga in the newspaper. "On the other hand, it's good that at his age he's capable and viable." But Theresa Lipp, 63, of Sebastian thinks sending Glenn into space is a waste of taxpayers' money. "He's kind of old to be doing it," Lipp said. "Maybe he's trying to Feb. 23, 1962 Glenn receives NASA Distinguished Service Award from President i John F. Kennedy uuniiy a ceremony at Cape Canaveral. 0 I March 1983 Declares candidacy for Democratic nomination for U.S. president. Nov. 1974 Wins third bid for U.S. Senate. June 1976 Jimmy Carter oonsiders Glenn as running mate. could still use the information as a baby step forward." Among the potentially useful data that Glenn could provide is information on how spaceflight affects his bones, heart, balance and sleeping patterns. The body's adjustment to zero gravity closely mimics the aging process in many ways. ; For example, astronauts' hearts lose conditioning in space because they do not have to pump as hard in the absence of gravity. People on Earth also lose the same vitality as they grow older. '; That's also true for the increased loss of calcium in bones a prob-lem shared by astronauts in space and senior citizens. "If we could find ways to prevent this mineral loss in zero gravity, those measures might be very useful to people on Earth," said Richard Sprott, associate director of the biology program at the National Institute on Aging. "Or, if we could find ways to speed up remineralization after it's lost, that also would be useful." Some researchers said an orbital research mission is the ideal place to carry out work on the aging. As long as Glenn's experiments are carefully planned, they said, the work could contribute to knowledge that ultimately might improve the woes of the elderly. At least some space observers think the potential for gaining knowledge is a real benefit of allowing Glenn to return to space 37 years after he became the first American to orbit Earth in 1962. "Just as we learned all sorts of things from his first flight we didn't even know back then if people would be able to survive going into space I think we could still learn a lot," Dasch said. "I think starting to fly people in another age group will in fact tell us a great deal." "I think it's fantastic that he can go. He has great knowl edge (of the space program). J 5 Ed Jones of Cocoa; "If they find that he is in good physical shape, I think it's great. I think it's wonderful. J J '.; Rose Farhat of Melbourne' prove something." Studying the effects of space travel on the elderly won't benefit us any time soon, anyway, she added. ' "That might be 100 years from now." But for the most part, Bill Nelson, the last civilian to fly on a shuttle before the Challenger explosion, seemed to sum up many sentiments, "ThlC IC Q fittinn onlminnfiAn j-i the career of a great American," said Nelson, the state treasurer and insurance commissioner. "He was only up there five hours before. He deserves to go again. He was one of the originals." t. it . . v 'I. J lill i lohnGlenn IT !Vesident84 fl Feb. 1997 Glenn announces his retirement from Senate. POct. 1989 Common Cause as one of the Senate's "Keating Five," involved in pressuring government regulators in savings and loan scandal. M Jan. 1998 Glenn picked to fly on shuttle. St (" iff i-iitoudr 1 C'i3 "i::3 i I if' J ..,-.4 . . i k ....

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