Last week we observed the passing for one of the last true American heroes, Senator John Glenn. Glenn truly had “The Right Stuff”: Combat pilot, Supersonic test pilot, first American to orbit the Earth, 5 term Senator from Ohio, and oldest astronaut in US history.
Glenn also knew the value of running. He was the oldest of the original Mercury 7 Astronauts and the only runner. He knew he needed an edge over the young superheroes. Here is his colleague Neil Armstrong’s response to Glenn’s running:
“I believe that the good lord gave us a finite number of heartbeats and I’m damned if I’m going to use up mine running up and down a street.”
Glenn was the only one fit enough to get shot up in the can 40 years later when he became the oldest Astronaut at age 77. He was also last one standing. He passed last week at age 95.
At the age of 77, Glenn passed the notoriously strict NASA physical, a test that many would-be astronauts half his age fail. At 90, he commented that he was sure he could still pass.
“I can still pass a flight physical, but my eyes aren’t as good as they were,” he said with confidence.
After the invasion of Pearl Harbor Glenn, went right into flight training. As a Marine he flew over 140 combat missions in WW2 and the Korean War.
He had the endurance to serve 24 years in the US Senate. An important part of his regimen had always involved exercises anyone can do, such as jogging and brisk walks, not relying on high-tech equipment or training.
After his Senate career he became the poster child for the National Guideline “Exercise: A Guide From the National Institute on Aging.” He added weightlifting in preparation for his senior space flight and shared the evidence that strength training can help one park their walker.
Glenn said “attitude and exercise” were responsible for his health and fitness. “Everybody has to exercise every day,” Glenn said. “I think every person has to have something they’re looking forward to doing when they get up that day.”
So if you are not in the habit of orbiting the block a few times a day then take up the habit in honor of John Glenn.
So who are the remaining living superheroes from my childhood? One stands out for sure. General Chuck Yeager of West Virginia turns 94 this year and is still living the vigorous life.