2016, that cruel year, continues to take our icons from us. News just came over the wire (meaning the Internet) that John Glenn is gone. One of the Mercury 7 astronauts and the first American to orbit the earth, Glenn was a pervasive presence in the collective childhood of my generation and at least one that followed. I don’t remember the Friendship 7 mission of February 20th, 1962 as it happened, probably because I had just been born the previous summer, but it was part of every space race news story and school history and science lesson from then on. Glenn’s face and voice and the distinctive corrugated black shape of the Friendship 7 capsule are still as familiar to me as just about anything.
The New York Times’ notice of his death, published less than an hour ago as I write this, is headed “John Glenn: American Hero of the Space Age”, and you can’t do much better than that as a description. The Space Age as we remember it is long gone, but some of its memories will never fade.