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John Glenn takes steps ‘forward to the future’

Brittany Schock / Asst. photo editor

Fifty years ago Monday, former Sen. John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth, beginning a legacy of flight and research at NASA. On this anniversary, Glenn offered golden nuggets about the past and future of space flight.

Speaking at a news conference in promotion of the NASA Future Forum, Glenn was more interested in the future than his past.

“I’m more interested in a live-acy than a legacy,” Glenn said. “You use the past to step forward to the future.”

Throughout the conference, Glenn emphasized the importance of research, such as that done aboard the international space station. Glenn called the cancellation of NASA’s space shuttle program a “drastic error.” Without a means to deliver our own men to the station, Glenn said we’ve lost many research opportunities.

NASA astronauts use the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get to the International Space Station.

“I just hope every day that the Soyuz keep functioning well, because that’s our only way of getting up,” Glenn said.

NASA administrator Charles Bolden agreed, saying he hopes that private commercial space programs can get America back on track in space. He said plans are set to have a new U.S. space vehicle by 2017.

“We need to get back to using our own resources to get to space,” Bolden said.

An interesting aspect of the day was a social media project through the John Glenn School of Public Affairs’ twitter account, @GlennSchool, was to live tweet Glenn’s 1962 mission, as if it were happening today. With tweets scheduled down to the second of Glenn’s orbit of the Earth, the project tweeted details of the mission and conversation between Glenn and NASA from the start of the mission to the end of the three-orbit endeavor.

Both men heavily emphasized the importance of education to our nation and the future of NASA’s flight and research.

“The most strident battle that the nation has right now, in my mind, is educating our kids,” Bolden said.

Bolden called the International Space Station the “most incredible national laboratory right now,” and said, “We need to be proud of it.” Part of being proud of the station is teaching our kids to take the hard courses in math and science, Bolden said.

“We lead the world in higher education — that’s a fact,” Glenn said. The issue, he said, lies in kindergarten through high school.

“Unless we correct our K-12 education system, we are in trouble for the long haul,” Glenn said.

Glenn and Bolden spoke about how important commemorative days like Monday are to promoting education. We can use the past to encourage kids to work in science, Glenn said.

“If there’s no one to follow, then it’s lost,” Bolden said. He wants to make “hundreds, thousands” more John Glenns.

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