The death of John Glenn on Dec. 8, 2016 marks the end of an era: the glory days of NASA’s manned spaceflight program. It also marks another of my heroes gone from the world. I was twelve when Mercury Astronaut John Glenn rode the fiery Atlas rocket into orbit. I was transfixed for the duration of the flight. We were doing it. We were finally traveling in space! Glenn was instantly my hero, and rightly so. And now he is gone, from this life, at least. Godspeed, John Glenn!
His passing brings back echoes of other pioneers who have passed into history in the last few years: Neil Armstrong, whose words “Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed,” marked a defining moment in human history, the mere memory of which sends chills down my spine. Sally Ride, who broke the gender barrier for American space travelers, and went on to become a role model for young women everywhere. Leonard Nimoy, whose portrayal of the half-Vulcan Spock grew nearer and dearer with each passing year.
Glenn, of course, went on to become a U.S. Senator from Ohio, and in 1998 became the oldest human (at 77) to fly in space. We should all be so productive.
I never met Glenn or any of these other heroes. But in a way, their passing is deeply personal to me, because what they did with their lives so deeply touched my own life. And that’s a pretty good way to go, don’t you think?