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Glenn Wants to Fly Again; Advises China About Its Space Program

November 22, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Sen. John Glenn wasn’t shy about offering China unsolicited advice about its space program, but he has hesitated for years about asking America’s space bosses to consider returning him to the heavens.

Glenn, D-Ohio, the Mercury astronaut who was the first American to orbit the Earth, often brags about the top grades he receives on his yearly follow-up physicals for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and jokes about being available for geriatric space studies.

On Thursday, he said he’s never told NASA how serious he is or made a formal request, even though he wants to and believes the elderly stand to benefit from future space research.

``I’ve hinted,″ said the 75-year-old senator. ``Stay tuned.″

Space is a good place to study human aging because there are similarities between what happens to a body in zero gravity and what happens naturally over time on Earth, Glenn said.

``There are changes up there that are reversible for them (astronauts) but aren’t reversible for the elderly here on Earth,″ he said, laying out his argument that he would be a good human test subject because NASA has more than 35 years of medical information about him.

Glenn said he would have no qualms about putting age-enhancing pressures on his body when no one knows what the strain would do to someone his age. ``That’s the best reason I can think of to do it,″ he said. ``It’s never been done before.″

Glenn made his comments after describing a Nov. 14 meeting in Beijing, when he suggested to President Jiang Zemin that China consider joining the 13 nations already cooperating on the space station project.

``I told Jiang Zemin that I hoped we would be able to work together on this instead of competitively,″ Glenn said. ``I don’t know whether they’re willing to do this or not.

``He responded by saying the idea was interesting. ... He said he wasn’t familiar with the details of their program.″

Glenn said his comments were triggered by published reports that the Chinese were working on their own space station and lunar-landing spacecraft.

``Why repeat history? Why not work together?″ he said. ``I would like to see space cooperation rather competitiveness.″

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