John Glenn Inspired Us To Explore Space

“If a man faces up to the [unknown] and takes the dare of the future, he can have some control over his destiny.” John Glenn

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As many followers know, my next novel is a humourous story about the adventures of a man on Mars. The reason that this story is even believable is because of men like John Glenn who took risks to explore the unknown. He and his fellow Mercury 7 astronauts were pioneers just as were the first Europeans to explore the New World.

His first flight in space, on February 20, 1962, was only five hours long. About as long as it takes to fly from Toronto to Los Angeles. Although he was the third American in space, the previous two were suborbital flights. He was the first American to orbit the Earth and that accomplishment captured the nation’s attention. He became a national  hero, which made NASA reluctant to allow him to return to  space. The agency understood the risks of space exploration were and still are significant. Not everyone returns safely.

Even on Glenn’s flight there was a crisis and a real possibility he might not survive the mission. At one point an indicator light was showing that the Mercury capsule’s heat shield was partly detached. If the shield was to come off, the capsule might have burnt up on re-entry. Mission controllers decided to bring Glenn home early and told him not to jettison his aft retro rockets, which allowed him to maneuver the craft in space. Because the retropack was strapped to the heat shield, it was thought it would provide an extra measure of security. His cool reaction to the situation only added to his reputation.

In my Mars story, a permanent colony established on Mars is destroyed. It’s a given that when manned missions to Mars takes place in the next twenty years, not everyone will return. But that will not stop men and women, similar to the Mercury 7 astronauts, from challenging in the unknown. It takes a special type of person – like John Glenn.

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