Senator John Glenn commemorates Mercury flight, pays tribute to Neil Armstrong at Progressive Field
On Sunday, August 26, the Indians and NASA celebrated the 50th anniversary of Senator John Glenn’s Mercury flight, when he became the first man to orbit the earth. Senator Glenn was present at Progressive Field and the Indians honored the anniversary with a pre-game ceremony.
The timing of the ceremony was unique with the passing of Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon and a close friend of Glenn’s, the previous day. Glenn spoke about his friendship with Armstrong, as well as his own experiences in space. Below are some notable excerpts from Glenn’s comments on Sunday:
On returning to Progressive Field:
John Glenn: Glad to be back again, I haven’t been to a ballgame here in a while, and having a special NASA day here for me means a lot…I’m glad to be back here. I hope the Indians win today and I’m looking forward to it.
On his Mercury flight, 50 years later:
JG: 50 years – that’s really hard to believe because it seems to me more like two or three weeks. Literally, because everything was so vivid at that time – it was all brand new and we were experiencing things for the first time, so it was impressed on me very vividly at the time. And the other thing is, it’s been a rare day that somebody hasn’t brought something up about the space program, so I’ve recalled it long enough that it remains very vivid in my memory, so it is hard for me to believe that it’s been 50 years, and we’ve had all the progress that we’ve made.
On the experience of being in space:
JG: When you’re up there at the lower earth orbit, as I have been, you’re looking at the curvature of the earth. You’re looking at weather patterns underneath and you’re looking at whole nations at a glance, and you’re going – although you don’t feel it as much – you’re going almost five miles a second just to stay in orbit up there. Five Miles a second – hard to believe –but there’s nothing close to you that you’re going by at that speed, so you’re going around the earth and daytime is about 45 minutes and nighttime is about 45 minutes, so you see a lot of sunrises and sunsets, and they’re beautiful particularly from space.
On the purpose of space travel:
JG: The main reason you’re up there is to do basic research – it isn’t just to go up there to have a good time and look around. The second flight I was on – we had 83 different research projects on that one flight.
On watching Armstrong’s moon landing:
JG: I was in the observation area of the Control Center for all of that mission – or most of it – and I was in there when he made that landing. That was another one that showed Neil’s dedication to what he was doing – I think the estimates were that he was down to between 15 and 35 seconds of fuel remaining when they actually finally set down. It was very, very tight. It just shows his dedication in doing the job he set out to do in representing our country.
On the significance of the moon landing:
JG: Those were still days of the Cold War, and I think people forget that. The landing on the Moon was a competitive thing. The Soviets at that time had their own program, which was a very secretive program, and after Neil landed on the Moon they cancelled their program.
On his history with baseball great Ted Williams:
JG: Ted was a good friend. When I was assigned to Korea, Ted had been recalled reservists, and was sent to Korea as a pilot within a few days of when I got there. At that time they had a policy of teaming people up: a regular Marine pilot who had been flying day in day out, and team him up with a reservist, and you flew your missions together. Ted and I were put together as a team. Ted flew probably half the missions he flew in Korea as my wing-man, so I got to know Ted very well.
On his legacy and Armstrong’s legacy:
JG: I don’t know how they’ll remember me – I’ll leave that up to other people. I think people will think about Neil, I hope, the way I think about Neil. And that was as one of the most decorated Americans you can have.