By Jesse Cook.
Unfortunately, former astronaut and United States senator John Glenn has embarked on his final journey: one with no return. He flew 2 historic space missions for NASA: Mercury-Atlas 6 in 1962, where he became the second American in space, fifth person in space, and the first American to orbit the Earth, and STS-95 in 1998, where he became the oldest human in space.
Glenn lived a remarkable life. In the 1960’s, not only did he go to space, but he was present when his good friend, Robert F. Kennedy, was assassinated. He would later be a pallbearer at his funeral. After a couple failed attempts, John Glenn was elected to the senate of his home state of Ohio in 1974. He would serve 25 years in that position.
Another lesser known chapter of his life takes place before his time in the space program, during the Korean War. In times of war, many athletes would put their country above their city and would join the armed forces. The Boston Red Sox’ Hall Of Fame left fielder Ted Williams was one of those many; “By luck of the draw, we went to Korea at the same time we were in the same squadron ther,” said Glenn. “What they did at that time, they teamed up a reservist with a regular to fly together most of the time just because the regular Marine pilots normally had more instrument flying experience and things like that. So Ted and I were scheduled together. Ted flew as my wingman on about half the missions he flew in Korea.” Yes, it’s true, John Glenn and Ted Williams were flying partners during the Korean War, and they would be great friends throughout life. Williams was a very good pilot, but you had to have been an incredibly skilled pilot to have been selected as one of the Mercury Seven astronauts, the original group of American astronauts. That’s exactly what John Glenn was, and everybody knew it; “Absolutely fearless. The best I ever saw. It was an honor to fly with him,” Williams would later say.
The 2 were like brothers and at one point, Glenn saved the outfielder’s life: Williams’ plane was set ablaze after being hit. Glenn, flying beside Williams, was able to communicate with him by making motions through the window. He was more than a pilot, John Glenn was a genius! He pointed upwards and Williams saw this from the cockpit of his F9F Panther Jet. Glenn was motioning for Williams to fly higher, for in the higher altitude, the fire wouldn’t have as much air to flourish. The plan worked, and Teddy Ballgame was able to take the field another time.
“I don’t know what you could say about a day in which you have seen four beautiful sunsets.” A little over a week ago, Glenn was hospitalized, and then on December 8, 2016, John Glenn saw his final sunset. The man explored for humanity, worked for humanity, and lived for humanity. “We’re not up there in space just to joyride around. We’re up there to do things that are of value to everybody right here on Earth.”