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Glenn Arrives for Thursday’s Launch

October 26, 1998

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) _ John Glenn, Payload Specialist No. 2, arrived for his launch countdown Monday _ about an hour late because of airplane problems that left one crewmate stranded across the state.

He and his six fellow astronauts left Houston earlier in the day in five T-38 training jets and stopped for refueling at Tyndall Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle. A battery problem with one of the jets left astronaut Scott Parazynski waiting for a lift at Tyndall.

The rest of the crew took off for Kennedy Space Center and a televised gala welcome without him. Parazynski was expected to arrive later in the afternoon.

At the Cape, commander Curtis Brown Jr. thanked the crowd of about 150 reporters for waiting and then invited each astronaut to make brief remarks.

When Glenn’s turn came, he introduced himself as ``PS2 on this flight,″ a reference to his position as the bottom man on Discovery’s crew, and said he was ``very glad to be here.″

``One word on this whole thing,″ said the 77-year-old Glenn. ``I have been pleasantly surprised at the outpouring of interest in this flight, and it’s really gratifying to see people get so fired up about the space program again.″

It is Glenn’s participation in the mission that has created a level of media attention not seen at the Cape in more than a decade. About 3,500 journalists have been accredited for the launch.

Before the astronauts greeted their families, Brown led the crowd in singing ``Happy Birthday″ to crewman Stephen Robinson, who turned 43 Monday. But only the astronauts and a few seasoned space reporters knew his name; everyone else hummed when it came time to sing ``Steve.″

``I hope these guys fly better than they sing,″ joked Robinson.

As soon as the photo session was over, Glenn strode straight to his wife, Annie, and hugged her hard. Then he embraced his daughter, Lyn, and son, David.

Arm in arm, the family posed for group pictures. Glenn had to stand eight feet away from his 14-year-old grandson Zachary, who was not permitted near him because of a preflight quarantine. His other grandson, 16-year-old Daniel, was due to arrive Monday night.

Glenn, who was the first American to orbit the Earth back in 1962, was given a sendoff from Houston along with his crewmates by Defense Secretary William Cohen.

``We can say with confidence, `Houston, we have no problems,‴ Cohen said. ``To the crew, let me say: Godspeed, Discovery.″

NASA meteorologists, meanwhile, kept a close watch on Hurricane Mitch out in the Caribbean. Although the powerful storm was moving away from Florida, forecasters worried it might result in high wind for Thursday’s launch attempt.

``If we hadn’t had the hurricane, I think I’d have been much more relaxed,″ said shuttle weather officer Ed Priselac.

Priselac put the odds of favorable launch weather at 60 percent.

Another meteorological hazard loomed as well: The Nov. 17 Leonids meteor shower that is expected to be unusually severe and could damage an orbiting ship. NASA said if Discovery isn’t launched by Nov. 5, liftoff will be delayed until the shower is over.

The only technical problem involved a faulty sensor on one of Discovery’s main engines. The sensor normally is used to make sure the engine nozzle is pointed the right way before liftoff. Engineers will rely on other sources of information _ hydraulic pressure readings, for instance _ to make sure the engine is in the proper position, said shuttle test director Doug Lyons.

Glenn will be the oldest person in space by 16 years when Discovery takes off. Story Musgrave, who is no longer an astronaut, was 61 when he last flew two years ago.

In Glenn’s case, age was an advantage _ he talked NASA into giving him a ride so he could conduct geriatric tests in orbit.

Altogether, 83 experiments are planned for the nine-day flight.

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