The word is out: It's all systems "go" for former astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn (D-OH), 76. NASA is expected to announce tomorrow that the grizzled space veteran can go on one last space flight, the Associated Press reported this afternoon. In 1962, Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth.
In lobbying for the chance to fly aboard the space shuttle, Glenn has offered to serve as a guinea pig for tests on the effect of weightlessness on the aging body. He has argued that what happens to the body in zero gravity--including bone thinning, immune system changes, dizziness, loss of muscle tone, and sleep disturbances--resembles processes that also occur in aging.
After the 1986 Challenger explosion, NASA made a rule that no civilians could go up in space. That will have to be changed to accommodate Glenn. NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin, reportedly worried that the flight would be derided as a publicity stunt, is said to have pondered this decision for months.