Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Birthdays of Nelson Mandela and John Glenn

There's not a lot else to choose from today. Hallmark suggests National Caviar Day, but that claim seems fishy, and American Greetings' suggestion that today is Wiener Day strikes us as a loser.

On the other hand, the United Nations has promoted Nelson Mandela's birthday as Nelson Mandela International Day since 2009, joining the call of the Nelson Mandela Foundation to urge all the people of the world to commit 67 minutes of time today to public service (one minute for each year of Mandela's life). So that qualifies as a holiday, and maybe even a notch or three above the sort of micro-mini-holidayette so often featured here.

As Mr. Mandela turns 94 today, the first American to orbit the Earth, John Glenn, turns 91.

Nobody has declared Mr. Glenn's birthday any sort of holiday -- yet -- but maybe somebody should.

Perhaps you've forgotten that, in 1998, as his career in the United States Senate wound to a close, John Glenn went back into space, aboard the Shuttle Discovery, as part of the crew of STS-95. He was then 77, the oldest person ever to fly in space.

He wasn't traveling as mere cargo or window dressing. From the Wikipedia article linked in the preceding paragraph:
Since the aging process and a space flight experience share a number of similar physiological responses, a series of experiments sponsored by NASA and the National Institute on Aging was conducted on Glenn during the STS-95 mission. The investigations gathered information which may provide a model system to help scientists interested in understanding aging. Some of these similarities include bone and muscle loss, balance disorders and sleep disturbances. Data provided from Glenn during this mission was compared to data obtained from Glenn's Friendship 7 orbital mission in 1962.
At your favorite gin mill tonight, lift a glass of the Right Stuff in celebration of John Glenn and those heady days when America was determined to lead in space exploration.

Then go home and wonder what went wrong.

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