The Trouble With John Glenn

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John Glenn's much-hyped return to space does not appear to be following the script. Just eight days before the launch, it has been revealed that the 77-year-old senator was dumped without announcement by NASA from an experiment that the agency rated as one of the top two priorities of his mission. As if that weren't enough, scientists are becoming increasingly concerned about launching the shuttle after a five-month gap between flights -- and the fact that the President has decided to show up on launch day isn't helping anyone's nerves.

It was way back in August that Glenn was told he wouldn't be taking part in a test of melatonin, the natural sleep hormone, because he "did not meet one of the medical criteria for participation," Dr. Charles Czeisler, the surgeon who disqualified Glenn, told the New York Times Wednesday. For two months, NASA endeavored to keep the news quiet -- ostensibly because it was a private medical matter. Evidently, it didn't fit the mold of a feisty American hero blasting back into orbit. Neither does the prospect of delaying the launch, with Clinton and hundreds of congressmen, celebrities and network anchormen waiting to hear "Godspeed, John Glenn" right on cue. But once again, reality seems to be reminding us that space flight is no simple ride into the sunset.