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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Halfway Through John Glenn: A Memoir...

I can't help feeling I'm learning a lot about John Glenn the person rather than what he did. I'm reading this side by side with The Astronaut Wives Club and it makes for an interesting comparison.

He spends a lot of time describing the various planes he flew - in great detail, what they could do, what the problems were, what happened with his next plane. I had a hard time focusing on all that and admit to sliding over some of the plane descriptions. 

But there's no question that he was a passionate flyer, that a lot of the stuff he volunteered for was because it was the only way he could keep flying instead of being stuck behind a desk. After World War II, seeing friends be killed, admitting that napalm was horrible and that maybe the bombs over Japan were not nice, he goes to Korea. The patriotism? Definitely, but mainly because it will keep him flying. He doesn't have the particular skills needed for commercial flight and anyway, people who do are applying for all the jobs available. In Korea he hopes he can do the Snoopy-Red Baron type of combat flying he wants so desperately, and he does, three times(five would have made him champion). 

I've just reached the bit where he has finally been accepted for the Mercury program. He admits to all the awful stuff the astronaut candidates had to go through in their medical tests. I read about that in The Right Stuff and other books on the subject. It was not only difficult, it was downright embarrassing!

Interestingly, that line about "sleeping under a Communist moon", which I have read elsewhere was spoken by LBJ, he attributes to Khruschev, as a sneer. You do have to wonder about this man...

But I'm finding that there was good reason for the fact that the astronauts were able to participate in the design of their spacecraft. They were all test pilots at this stage and it was something test pilots did. Even then, you really needed to have science and maths skills to be able to do the job. Glenn admits he had a hard time with the maths, though he eventually managed it, though he never quite got the hang of calculus.

Okay, on with the book and further comments when I've finished it. 

2 comments:

Lexa Cain said...

Too bad there's a bit too much about the planes. I imagine he thought the book would be read mostly by men interested in aviation. And I think you have to be a wee bit crazy to be a test pilot anyway. (I was always in Math Honors, but never got the hang of calculus either!)

Sue Bursztynski said...

I agree that you'd have to be crazy to be a test pilot. It must have been tough for the wives , never knowing if their husbands would come home from work.

And these ones were overflowing with testosterone. Reading some of the other astronauts' accounts, eg Michael Collins, when they weren't flying they were zooming around in their boy cars, at crazy speeds. You can see why they were the ones willing to be strapped into a capsule on top of a huge stock of dynamite and be shot off into space