John Glenn

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A fine specimen of a spaceman.
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Starting arguments over Thanksgiving dinner
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John Herschel (Godspeed!) Glenn, Jr. (July 18, 1921–December 8, 2016) is a genuine American hero. Decorated Marine Corps pilot who saw action in World War II and the Korean War; first American astronaut to orbit the Earth; US Senator 1974—1999, and at the time the oldest person to go into space (the current record-holder as of October 2021 is William Shatner, who is famous for playing James Tiberius Kirk, Captain of the fictional space ship Enterprise of the TV series Star Trek).[1]

NASA career[edit]

Glenn was selected as one of the Original Seven astronauts and flew Mercury-Atlas 6 for three orbits on February 20, 1962.[2] He was known as the "straight arrow" of the sometimes-boisterous Mercury astronauts, arguing that they should conduct themselves with dignity in public (and quit all this womanizing and boozing.) In the 1983 movie The Right Stuff, Ed Harris created an accurate portrait of Glenn as the group's de facto conscience.

At age 77, Glenn returned to space as a payload specialist on STS-95, a nine-day mission on the Shuttle Discovery.[3]

Political career[edit]

In 1970, Glenn sought the Democratic nomination for US Senator for Ohio but lost a close race with Howard Metzenbaum. However, he defeated Metzenbaum in the 1974 primary and went on to win over Republican Ralph Perk. Along with John McCain, Glenn became one of the "Keating Five", a group of senators accused of interfering with federal regulators on behalf of Charles Keating's failed financial institution. His career as Senator lasted until 1999, and from 1987-1995 he was chairman of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs.[4]


Glenn died December 8, 2016, in a hospital in his home state of Ohio.[5]

Guest appearance on Frasier[edit]

Glenn came to the attention of the pseudoscience and NASA-hating crowd after a guest appearance on the TV comedy sitcom Frasier in 2001.[6]

The plot involved the character of Roz planning a radio show about space exploration. In a reversal of their usual roles, Roz is in charge, with Frasier merely booked to narrate the show. Neither of them adapts well to the work situation, and they clash repeatedly. Eventually, Roz announces that Frasier is off the show, to be replaced by none other than John Glenn. Frasier, outraged, persists in interfering, and the argument escalates. Glenn sits down in the recording studio and begins an "improvised" monologue that deliberately spoofs the outlandish claims of conspiracy theorists that NASA is not coming clean about what happens in space. It included this text:

"Back in those glory days, I was very uncomfortable when they asked us to say things we didn't want to say and deny other things. Some people asked… "Were you alone out there?" We never gave the real answer, and yet we see things out there — strange things — but we know what we saw out there. And we couldn't really say anything."[7]

Glenn's monologue is actually intercut with scenes of Roz and Frasier still fighting and paying no attention to what their celebrity guest is saying. That's the joke, folks.

Some NASA-haters apparently didn't see the joke. On Coast to Coast AM, February 20, 2012, Richard C. Hoagland related this incident as "a scathing indictment of NASA." Hoagland and his former co-author Mike Bara, among others, believe that Glenn was using the opportunity to blow the whistle on a major NASA cover-up.[8] These people are so dogmatic in their scorn for NASA, it seems, that for them, not even a laugh-track is enough of a hint that what they're watching is not supposed to be taken seriously.

Bara repeated the cover-up allegation in his 2016 book Hidden Agenda, and went further, calling Glenn a liar[9] for telling a different story in other media interviews.


  • Bara, Mike (2016). Hidden Agenda: NASA and the Secret Space Program. Kempton, IL: Adventures Unlimited. pp. 208. ISBN 978-1939149664.