2000 33¢ Celebrate the Century - 1990s: Return to Space stamp
US #3191h pictures the Discovery and the Friendship 7.

On October 29, 1998, John Glenn returned to space aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery.  At the age of 77, he was the oldest person to go into space.

Born on July 18, 1921, John Glenn served with the Marines during World War II, flying 59 combat missions in the South Pacific.  He went on to fly another 63 missions during the Korean War, twice returning to his base with more than 250 enemy anti-aircraft bullet holes in his plane.

1962 4¢ Project Mercury stamp
US #1193 features the Friendship 7 space capsule flown by John Glenn in the first successful orbit of the Earth.

Flying was a passion for Glenn and during peacetime he was appointed to test pilot school.  In April 1959, Glenn was one of seven men chosen to take part in NASA’s Project Mercury.  Three years later, the spacecraft Friendship 7 blasted into space with Glenn inside the capsule.  On February 20, 1962, he became the first American to orbit the Earth. Upon his return Glenn was a national hero, with his own ticker-tape parade and a service medal awarded by President Kennedy.

1998 John Glenn - First American to Orbit Earth, Mint, Sheet of 8 Stamps, Palau
Item #M11181 – Mint stamp sheet honoring Glenn as the First American to orbit Earth

Glenn must have thought his space flight days were over when he resigned from NASA shortly after his friend John Kennedy was assassinated.  The former astronaut began his political career in 1974, when he was elected to represent his home state of Ohio in the US Senate.  He held that position for about 24 years, until he was 78 years old.

1998 Commemorative STS-95 Lauch Cover with Official Medal
Item #STS95M – Colorano Silk Cachet STS-95 Launch Cover with commemorative medal

One day during his term as senator, while reading a book on space physiology, the idea occurred to Glenn that a study examining the effects of weightlessness on older people could be beneficial.  NASA officials weren’t convinced, and neither was Glenn’s wife, Annie.  However, after two years of lobbying and being found in good health, Glenn began preparing for the journey.

John Glenn STS-95 Launch and Return Silk Cachet Covers.
Item #SPC1476 – John Glenn STS-95 Launch and Return Silk Cachet Covers

Thirty-six years after he blasted into the skies aboard Friendship 7, John Glenn returned to space on October 29, 1998, as part of mission STS-95.  Glenn, then 77, spent nine days on the shuttle Discovery.  A member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, Glenn hoped his journey would help researchers learn more about the effects of aging.  In addition to these tests, Glenn served as the flight’s photographer and videographer.

STS-95 Launch and Return Covers
Item #STS95A – STS-95 Launch and Return Covers

Glenn’s heart and respiration rates, blood volume, and blood pressure were monitored regularly throughout the flight.  Scientists analyzed the results, especially his immune system function and protein levels.  Glenn’s sleep cycles were also measured and compared to readings that were taken before liftoff.  He was given another battery of tests when he returned home.  Glenn was also honored with another ticker-tape parade upon his return to earth.

2012 John Glenn - Orbit Aboard Friendship 7 50th Anniversary, Mint Souvenir Sheet, Turks and Caicos
Item #M11818 – Stamp sheet issued for 50th anniversary of Glenn’s first flight
2012 $28 Friendship 7, 50th Anniversary of First American in Orbit - John Glenn, Mint Souvenir Sheet, Solomon Islands
Item #M12222 – Mint souvenir sheet honoring the 50th anniversary of Glenn’s first trip to space
1998 John H. Glenn Photocard w/stamp
Item #AC348 – John H. Glenn Photocard w/stamp
1962 Men in Space Postcard
Item #AC347 – 1962 Men in Space Postcard
1998 John Glenn DblComm FDC Launch/Land
Item #571089 – 1998 John Glenn cover with launch and landing cancels.
1962 cover honoring Glenn's first flight.
Item #AC339 – 1962 cover honoring Glenn’s first flight.

Click here for a video about space mission STS-95.

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  1. Very cool. It’s inspiring to be reminded of these days! Space travel is such an incredible journey and to think that Americans have been there.

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