John Glenn: Up, Up and Away

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CAPE CANAVERAL: John Glenn is back in space. After a couple of last-minute glitches – a minor air pressure alarm in the cockpit and a couple of private aircraft in the vicinity – space shuttle Discovery blasted off a mere 20 minutes behind schedule on an otherwise clear, cloudless launch day.
"I feel like a kid at his first Christmas," President Clinton said earlier as he watched from the roof of the John F. Kennedy Space Center. He wasn’t alone. Millions of visitors had flocked to the Cape, hoping to catch a little bit of the Glenn magic. And Glenn himself? "A little different trip this time" was all the Friendship 7 veteran would say at the goodbye ceremony.

Not that it was a perfect day for everyone. Annie Glenn and her two grown-up children -- now in their fifties -- have been less than lukewarm about their husband and father returning to space from the first day NASA administrator Dan Goldin agreed to it. It's wasn't a happy scene for all the Glenn watchers, either -- drivers faced bumper-to-bumper traffic on the way to the Cape this morning, closed highways later on(the fact that the President drove in didn't help the situation any). And you could forgive space shuttle Discovery's army of technicians some jitters as they pumped in more than 500,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and oxygen fuel. As the agency freely admits, there was a flip side to all this positive publicity. If there's a bug in the system, the whole world is watching.