Glenn: I don't think of myself as a hero

Feb. 20, 2012 at 4:00 AM
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COLUMBUS, Ohio, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- John Glenn, feted in his home state of Ohio Monday on the 50th anniversary of being the first American to orbit Earth, says he doesn't consider himself a hero.

"I don't think of myself that way," Glenn, 90, told The New York Times. "I get up each day and have the same problems others have at my age. As far as trying to analyze all the attention I received, I will leave that to others."

Glenn, a former U.S. Marine Corps fighter pilot, was a member of NASA's original Mercury 7 astronaut group, chosen in 1959 as part of the first human spaceflight program, known as Project Mercury, to help the United States catch up to the Soviet Union in what was known as the space race.

He orbited Earth in the Friendship 7 spacecraft Feb. 20, 1962, re-entering the atmosphere after circling the planet three times in 4 hours, 55 minutes and 23 seconds.

His tiny capsule splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean and was safely taken aboard the destroyer USS Noa.

Enthusiastic crewmen used white paint to draw circles around Glenn's footsteps when he stepped onto the ship's deck, the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships states.

Glenn later became a Democratic senator from Ohio, serving four terms. He ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988.

He received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978 and was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1990

In 1998, his last year in the Senate, Glenn became, at 77, the oldest person to travel in space, serving as a payload specialist on the space shuttle Discovery.

The commemoration of Glenn's historic Friendship 7 flight was to move to Columbus Monday -- about 80 miles west of Cambridge, Ohio, where Glenn was born -- after celebrations Saturday at Kennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Glenn and M. Scott Carpenter, the only other surviving Mercury 7 astronaut, both attended the NASA event, with Carpenter, 86, telling a crowd to laughter he was still waiting for his first shuttle ride.

Glenn was to be honored at 7 p.m. Monday at an Ohio State University gala banquet.

Glenn helped found the John Glenn Institute for Public Service and Public Policy at the university in 1998 to encourage public service. The institute merged with the university's School of Public Policy and Management in 2006 to become the John Glenn School of Public Affairs.

Glenn still holds an adjunct professorship at both the Glenn school and the university's department of political science.

His wife of 68 years, Annie, who turned 92 Friday, and their two children were expected to accompany him to the tribute.

U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, the commander of the space shuttle Endeavour's final mission, was selected as the $1,000-a-plate dinner's keynote speaker, the university said.

Kelly is married to former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., the target of an attempted assassination last year who resigned from the House Jan. 25 after saying she could not continue her recovery and still serve as a member of Congress.

Ohio State said it hoped the Glenn dinner would raise more than $2 million for scholarships to the Glenn school and the university's College of Engineering.

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