John Glenn’s remains escorted through Queen Anne’s County
CENTREVILLE — The remains of Col. John Glenn were escorted through Queen Anne’s County on Thursday, April 6, by Maryland State Police deputies traveling from Dover Air Force Base enroute to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
The escort passed Route 19 and U.S. 301 at about 6:45 a.m. and left Kent Island to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge about 7:45 a.m. Local firefighters and residents turned out at both Route 19 and the Route 8 overpass on Kent Island to pay their respects as the convoy passed.
Former astronaut and United States Senator John Glenn died Dec. 8, 2016, at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.
Glenn, who served four terms as a U.S. senator from Ohio, was one of NASA’s original seven Mercury astronauts. His flight on Friendship 7 on Feb, 20, 1962, showed the world that America was a serious contender in the space race with the Soviet Union. It also made Glenn an instant hero.
His mission of almost nine days on the space shuttle orbiter Discovery, launched Oc. 29, 1998, when he was 77, made him the oldest human to venture into space. On Discovery he participated in a series of tests on the aging process. The aging population was one focus of his work as a U.S. senator.
Glenn will always be remembered as the first American to orbit the Earth during those tentative, challenging, daring days when humans were just beginning to venture beyond the atmosphere that had nurtured them since the species began.
While Glenn’s flight on Friendship 7 was a glorious national triumph, problems arose that could have spelled disaster. The first was a failure of the automatic control system.
A scheduled 30-minute test to determine whether Glenn could fly the capsule manually became a matter of life and death when the automatic system went out at the end of the first orbit.
“I went to manual control and continued in that mode during the second and third orbits, and during re-entry,” Glenn recalled later. He had been confident he could do it. “The malfunction just forced me to prove very rapidly what had been planned over a longer period of time.”
Another problem seemed even more serious — telemetry indicated the spacecraft’s heat shield was loose. It seemed possible that Glenn and the spacecraft would be incinerated on re-entry. Much of the world held its breath.
Glenn left the retrorocket pack in place to steady the heat shield during re-entry. “It made for a very spectacular re-entr y from where I was sitting,” he said. Big chunks of the burning material came flying by the window.
He wasn’t sure whether the flaming debris was the rocket pack or the heat shield breaking up. “Fortunately,” he told an interviewer,” it was the rocket pack, or I wouldn’t be answering these questions.”
The procession of police vehicles from Dover Air Force Base escorting the remains of U.S. Senator/astronaut/Marine John Glenn passes under the Route 8 overpass along Route 50/301 in Stevesnville, with the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department ladder truck posting a large American flag, Thursday, April 6, at exactly 7:15 a.m.