One Small Step For a Senior

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WASHINGTON: He's still got the Right Stuff. John Glenn, the 76-year-old senator who was the first American to orbit the Earth back in 1962, is going back into space. NASA confirmed Friday that Glenn has been accepted to fly aboard the Space Shuttle this October as a payload specialist."I'm ready for another adventure into the unknown," said Glenn. "It's extraordinary," says Jeffrey Kluger, TIME's space writer and author of Lost Moon. "He's the grand old man of the space program."

Glenn certainly isn't getting any younger he's 15 years the senior of Stori Musgraze, currently the oldest ever cosmonaut. But that's the whole point NASA will be able to look at the same astronaut, then and now, to discover whether old age makes any difference in weightlessness.

Granted, Glenn is in such good shape that he's not your average old guy. But shooting him back into space is more than just a medical experiment. As Kluger says, "there's the romantic, emotional, adventerous value everything that used to be the stock in trade of the space industry." Evidently, its glory days are here again.