CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Oct. 29 -- Sounding relaxed and happy, returning Mercury astronaut John Glenn was basking by the shuttle window, joyfully taking in the view from 342 miles above Earth. Glenn said, 'We're just going by Hawaii and that is absolutely gorgeous.' 'Glad you're enjoying the show,' replied astronaut Robert Curbeam, from Mission Control in Houston. Glenn said: 'Boy, enjoying the show is right. This is beautiful.' Then, recalling a comment he made during his historic 1962 Mercury flight, Glenn added: 'I'll do a trite old statement, 'Zero g, and I feel fine.' I don't know what happens on down the line, but today is beautiful and great and Hawaii is just...I can't even describe it.' Glenn's commander, five-time flier Curt Brown, said, 'Let the record show that John has a smile on his face, and it goes from one ear to the other one and we haven't been able to move it yet.' Glenn and six crewmates blasted off at 2:20 p.m. EST for a nine-day science flight. At 77 years old, Glenn is the oldest person ever to fly in space. He will participate in medical experiments and serve as an orbital lab technician. The crew also plans to release a solar physics satellite for two days of research and test new equipment for the Hubble Space Telescope. Discovery's mission will be the last science flight before NASA begins construction of the International Space Station in December. The launch came with one cloud: an aluminum door covering the shuttle's landing drag chute flew off about four seconds before liftoff.
Launch integration manager Don McMonagle said engineers were studying the issue. McMonagle said, 'At this point, we know of no impact to the mission. ' The door, which is about 18 inches by 22 inches (45 cm by 56 cm) and about 1.75 inches (4.4 cm) thick, is located in the rear of the shuttle, just above the center mainengine. ---
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