Space crew survives plunge to Earth after Russian rocket fails

The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft carrying the crew of astronaut Nick Hague of the U.S. and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Russia blasts off to the International Space Station (ISS) from the launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan October 11, 2018. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

By Shamil Zhumatov

BAIKONUR COSMODROME, Kazakhstan (Reuters) – The two-man U.S.-Russian crew of a Soyuz spacecraft en route to the International Space Station was forced to make a dramatic emergency landing in Kazakhstan on Thursday when their rocket failed in mid-air.

U.S. astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin landed safely without harm and rescue crews who raced to locate them on the Kazakh steppe quickly linked up with them, NASA, the U.S. space agency, and Russia’s Roscosmos said.

It was the first serious launch problem experienced by a manned Soyuz space mission since 1983 when a fire broke out at the base of the booster rocket while the crew was preparing for lift-off. The crew narrowly escaped before a large explosion.

Thursday’s problem occurred when the first and second stages of a booster rocket, launched from the Soviet-era cosmodrome of Baikonur in the central Asian country, were separating, triggering emergency systems soon after launch.

The Soyuz capsule carrying the two men then separated from the malfunctioning rocket and made what NASA called a steep ballistic descent to Earth with parachutes helping slow its speed. A cloud of sand billowed up as the capsule came down on the desert steppe.

Rescue crews then raced to the scene to retrieve them with reports of paratroopers parachuting to their landing spot.

The failure is a setback for the Russian space program and the latest in a string of mishaps.

Moscow immediately suspended all manned space launches, the RIA news agency reported, while Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin said he had ordered a state commission to be set up to investigate what had gone wrong.

Unnamed Russian space industry sources cited by news agencies said it would be hard to establish what had caused the incident because the booster rocket segments involved had been badly damaged in their fall.

Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator who was in Kazakhstan to witness the launch, said in a statement that the failure had been caused by an anomaly with the rocket’s booster.

“A thorough investigation into the cause of the incident will be conducted,” he said, saying the safety of the crew was the utmost priority for NASA.

Photographs released by Roscosmos after the rescue showed the two astronauts smiling and relaxing on sofas at a town near their landing site as they underwent blood pressure and cardiac tests.

Footage from inside the Soyuz had shown the two men being shaken around at the moment the failure occurred, with their arms and legs flailing.

Ovchinin, the Russian cosmonaut, can be heard saying: “That was a quick flight.”

International Space Station (ISS) crew members astronaut Nick Hague of the U.S. and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Russia board the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft for the launch at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan October 11, 2018. Yuri Kochetkov/Pool via REUTERS

International Space Station (ISS) crew members astronaut Nick Hague of the U.S. and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Russia board the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft for the launch at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan October 11, 2018. Yuri Kochetkov/Pool via REUTERS

U.S. SPACE PLANS

For now, the United States relies on Moscow to carry its astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) which was launched 20 years ago. NASA tentatively plans to send its first crew to the ISS using a SpaceX craft instead of a Soyuz next April.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the most important thing was that the two men were alive.

The ISS, launched in 1998, is a habitable artificial satellite in low Earth orbit which is used to carry out scientific and space-related tests.

It can hold a crew of up to six people and at present has three people aboard, two men — a German and a Russian – as well as one female U.S. astronaut.

“Rescue services have been working since the first second of the accident,” Rogozin wrote on Twitter. “The emergency rescue systems of the MS-Soyuz spacecraft worked smoothly. The crew has been saved.”

A Russian space industry source was cited by the Interfax news agency as saying that there was enough food onboard the ISS to last until April of next year.

The next re-supply run was meant to happen on Oct. 31, the source was quoted as saying, but that was now in doubt since the Progress supply ship was propelled by the same kind of rocket used in Thursday’s incident.

Questions are now likely to be asked about how efficiently Russia’s space program is running.

In August, a hole appeared in a Soyuz capsule already docked to the ISS which caused a brief loss of air pressure and had to be patched. Rogozin has said it could have been “sabotage”.

And in November last year, Roscosmos lost contact with a newly-launched weather satellite – the Meteor-M – after it blasted off from Russia’s new Vostochny cosmodrome in the Far East.

Rogozin said at the time that the launch of the 2.6 billion-rouble ($39.02 million) satellite had been due to an embarrassing programming error.

($1 = 66.6315 roubles)

(Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov in Kazakhstan and by Christian Lowe, Tom Balmforth, Polina Nikolskaya, Polina Ivanova, Polina Devitt in Moscow; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

Trump orders creation of U.S. force to dominate space

FILE PHOTO: The Apollo 11 Lunar Module ascent stage, with astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. aboard, is photographed from the Command and Service Modules in lunar orbit in this July 1969 file photo. Courtesy NASA/Handout via REUTERS

By Makini Brice and Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday said he was ordering the establishment of a sixth branch of the military to clear the way for American dominance of space.

“It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space,” Trump said before a meeting of his National Space Council.

“We are going to have the Air Force and we’re going to have the ‘Space Force.’ Separate but equal. It is going to be something. So important,” he said later.

The United States, however, is a member of the Outer Space Treaty, which bars the stationing of weapons of mass destruction in space and only allows for the use of the moon and other celestial bodies for peaceful purposes.

Trump also signed a directive on the management of traffic and debris in space.

The announcements were his administration’s latest moves to scale up U.S. space exploration. The United States wants to send robotic explorers to the moon as soon as next year as a preparatory step towards sending astronauts back there for the first time since 1972, a NASA official said on Monday.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is planning a series of lunar missions beginning next year aimed at developing the capacity for a return to the moon, said Cheryl Warner, a spokeswoman for NASA’s Human Exploration Directorate.

NASA will work with private companies, which have not yet been chosen, on the missions, Warner said in a phone interview.

In December, Trump signed a directive that he said would enable astronauts to return to the moon and eventually lead a mission to Mars. He ordered the government last month to review regulations on commercial space flights.

Americans first landed on the moon in 1969, reaching a goal set by former President John F. Kennedy in 1961 and capping a decade-long space race between Washington and Moscow.

Since then, U.S. efforts to explore beyond the Earth’s orbit have largely focused on remote spacecraft that do not have human crew members, though American presidents have repeatedly raised the idea of sending human explorers back to the moon or further.

President George W. Bush in 2004 said humans would return to the moon by 2020. His successor, President Barack Obama, said in 2016 the United States would send humans to Mars by the 2030s.

(Reporting by Makini Brice and Steve Holland; Editing by Scott Malone and Paul Simao)

In the Hollywood Hills, eyes on the moon, not the stars

A lunar eclipse is shown over the ocean in Oceanside, California, U.S., January 31, 2018.

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A thousand people crowded on a hilltop outside Los Angeles before dawn on Wednesday for one of the best views in America of a rare lunar eclipse called a “Super Blue Blood Moon,” as the Earth’s shadow fell across its natural satellite.

Outside the Griffith Observatory, which more commonly draws tourists looking at the city’s famous Hollywood sign, people lounged on the grass and peered through telescopes for a better look at the red-tinted “blood moon” shadow

“I didn’t expect to see this many people and it kind of feels like nice inside to be, ‘Ah! Other people know about this and want to come see it,'” said Sam Rubaye, a 34-year-old property manager in Los Angeles who came up with friends.

The "Super Blue Blood Moon" sets behind the Staten Island Ferry, seen from Brooklyn, New York, U.S., January 31, 2018.

The “Super Blue Blood Moon” sets behind the Staten Island Ferry, seen from Brooklyn, New York, U.S., January 31, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

In western North America, the eclipse began at 3:48 a.m. Pacific Time (1148 GMT), according to NASA. Those on the East Coast were less fortunate: the moon had set before the eclipse was in full swing, according to NASA.

The eclipse occurred during the rare occasion of a second full moon in a single month, otherwise known as a “blue moon,” and during a point in the moon’s orbit at which it has reached its closest position to Earth, thus making it appear larger and brighter in the sky than normal, as a “super moon.”

The reddish appearance of the lunar surface – the moon’s image does not vanish entirely during an eclipse – is due to rays of sunlight passing through Earth’s atmosphere as the moon falls into our planet’s shadow.

The last time all three conditions occurred for a single lunar eclipse visible from North America was in 1866, according to the meteorological forecaster AccuWeather.

“Griffith Observatory is all about having an eyeball to the sky, and so it’s one thing to learn about this event in a book, but it’s another to see it for yourself,” observatory director Ed Krupp said in a phone interview.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Michael Perry and Andrew Hay)

Heavenly show to feature trifecta of super blue moon, eclipse

The super moon appears in the sky in Cairo, Egypt, in this file photo taken October 17, 2016.

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The moon will stage a rare triple show on Wednesday when a blue super moon combines with a total lunar eclipse that will be visible from western North America to eastern Asia, U.S. astronomers say.

The overlap of a blue moon – the second full moon in a calendar month – with a lunar eclipse while the moon is at its closest approach to the earth is the first such celestial trifecta since 1982, said Noah Petro, a research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center outside Washington.

“Just having these three things simultaneously occur is unusual,” Petro said in a telephone interview. “A blue moon is not extremely rare but it’s a nice coincidence that it happens in conjunction with these other two.”

The moon will reach its fullest on Wednesday at 8:27 a.m. EST (1327 GMT).

A blue moon normally occurs about once every 2-1/2 years. This month’s first full moon was on Jan. 1.

The blue moon also will be a super moon, which occurs when it is at or near its closest point to the earth, or perigee. A super moon is about 14 percent brighter than usual, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said.

Wednesday’s moon will be the second closest of 2018 after the one on Jan. 1.

The lunar eclipse, which takes place when the moon passes in the earth’s shadow, will last almost 3-1/2 hours. It will start at 6:48 a.m. EST (1148 GMT) and peak at 8:29 a.m. EST (1329 GMT), NASA said.

The total eclipse will be visible from the western United States and Canada across the Pacific Ocean to most of Australia and China, as well as northern polar regions. The eclipse will give the moon a reddish color known as a blood moon.

“I’m calling it the purple eclipse because it combines the blue moon and a red eclipse,” Rich Talcott, a senior editor at Astronomy magazine, said by telephone.

Petro said the eclipse is also a scientific opportunity for researchers in Hawaii, who will study what happens to the moon’s surface when it quickly drops from 212 Fahrenheit (100 Celsius) in sunlight to minus 279 F (minus 153 C) in darkness.

The speed of cooling can show what the surface is made of, such as rock or dust, he said.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Bill Trott)

Unmanned U.S. Air Force space plane lands after secret, two-year mission

The U.S. Airforce's X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle mission 4 after landing at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S.,

By Irene Klotz

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – The U.S. military’s experimental X-37B space plane landed on Sunday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, completing a classified mission that lasted nearly two years, the Air Force said.

The unmanned X-37B, which resembles a miniature space shuttle, touched down at 7:47 a.m. EDT (1147 GMT) on a runway formerly used for landings of the now-mothballed space shuttles, the Air Force said in an email.

The Boeing-built space plane blasted off in May 2015 from nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard an Atlas 5 rocket built by United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

The X-37B, one of two in the Air Force fleet, conducted unspecified experiments for more than 700 days while in orbit. It was the fourth and lengthiest mission so far for the secretive program, managed by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office.

The orbiters “perform risk reduction, experimentation and concept-of-operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies,” the Air Force has said without providing details. The cost of the program is also classified.

Personnel in self-contained atmospheric protective ensemble suits conduct initial checks on the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle 1.

Personnel in self-contained atmospheric protective ensemble suits conduct initial checks on the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle 1. REUTERS/U.S. Air Force/Michael Stonecypher

The Secure World Foundation, a nonprofit group promoting the peaceful exploration of space, says the secrecy surrounding the X-37B suggests the presence of intelligence-related hardware being tested or evaluated aboard the craft.

The vehicles are 29 feet (9 meters) long and have a wingspan of 15 feet, making them about one quarter of the size of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s now-retired space shuttles.

The X-37B, also known as Orbital Test Vehicle, or OTV, first flew in April 2010 and returned after eight months. A second mission launched in March 2011 and lasted 15 months, while a third took flight in December 2012 and returned after 22 months.

Sunday’s landing was the X-37B’s first in Florida. The three previous landings took place at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The Air Force relocated the program in 2014, taking over two of NASA’s former shuttle-processing hangars.

The Air Force intends to launch the fifth X-37B mission from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, located just south of the Kennedy Space Center, later this year.

(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

SpaceX rocket lifts off on first launch for U.S. military

SpaceX rocket lifts off on first launch for U.S. military

By Irene Klotz

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Florida on Monday, carrying the company’s first satellite for the U.S. military, and breaking a 10-year monopoly held by a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

The 23-story tall rocket took off from its seaside launch pad at Kennedy Space Center at 7:15 a.m. EDT (1115 GMT.)

It will put into orbit a classified satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office, an agency within the Defense Department that operates the nation’s spy satellites.

Nine minutes after takeoff, the rocket’s main section touched down on a landing pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, just south of NASA’s spaceport.

Last month, Space Exploration Technologies Corp flew its first recovered booster on a second mission, a key step in company founder Elon Musk’s quest to cut launch costs.

The National Reconnaissance Office bought SpaceX’s launch services via a contract with Ball Aerospace, a Colorado-based satellite and instrument builder. The terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Musk battled for years to break the monopoly on the military’s launch business held by United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

SpaceX sued the U.S. Air Force in 2014 over its exclusive multibillion-dollar contract with United Launch Alliance. The company later dropped the suit after the military agreed to open more launch contacts to competitive bidding.

SpaceX has since won two launch contracts from the Air Force to send up Global Positioning System satellites in 2018 and 2019.

Monday’s launch was the 34th mission for SpaceX and the fifth of more than 20 flights planned for this year.

The privately owned firm, based in Hawthorne, California,  has a backlog of more than 70 missions, worth about $10 billion.

(Editing by Daniel Wallis and Bernadette Baum)

U.S. government scientists go ‘rogue’ in defiance of Trump

national park in south dakota

By Steve Gorman

(Reuters) – Employees from more than a dozen U.S. government agencies have established a network of unofficial “rogue” Twitter feeds in defiance of what they see as attempts by President Donald Trump to muzzle federal climate change research and other science.

Seizing on Trump’s favorite mode of discourse, scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA and other bureaus have privately launched Twitter accounts – borrowing names and logos of their agencies – to protest restrictions they view as censorship and provide unfettered platforms for information the new administration has curtailed.

“Can’t wait for President Trump to call us FAKE NEWS,” one anonymous National Park Service employee posted on the newly opened Twitter account @AltNatParkService. “You can take our official twitter, but you’ll never take our free time!”

The @RogueNASA account displayed an introductory disclaimer describing it as “The unofficial ‘Resistance’ team of NASA. Not an official NASA account.” It beckoned readers to follow its feed “for science and climate news and facts. REAL NEWS, REAL FACTS.”

The swift proliferation of such tweets by government rank-and-file followed internal directives several agencies involved in environmental issues have received since Trump’s inauguration requiring them to curb their dissemination of information to the public.

Last week, Interior Department staff were told to stop posting on Twitter after an employee re-tweeted posts about relatively low attendance at Trump’s swearing-in, and about how material on climate change and civil rights had disappeared from the official White House website.

Employees at the EPA and the departments of Interior, Agriculture and Health and Human Services have since confirmed seeing notices from the new administration either instructing them to remove web pages or limit how they communicate to the public, including through social media.

The restrictions have reinforced concerns that Trump, a climate change skeptic, is out to squelch federally backed research showing that emissions from fossil fuel combustion and other human activities are contributing to global warming.

The resistance movement gained steam on Tuesday when a series of climate change-related tweets were posted to the official Twitter account of Badlands National Park in South Dakota, administered under the Interior Department, but were soon deleted.

A Park Service official later said those tweets came from a former employee no longer authorized to use the official account and that the agency was being encouraged to use Twitter to post public safety and park information only, and to avoid national policy issues.

Within hours, unofficial “resistance” or “rogue” Twitter accounts began sprouting up, emblazoned with the government logos of the agencies where they worked, the list growing to at least 14 such sites by Wednesday afternoon.

An account dubbed @ungaggedEPA invited followers to visit its feeds of “ungagged news, links, tips and conversation that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is unable to tell you,” adding that it was “Not directly affiliated with @EPA.”

U.S. environmental employees were soon joined by similar “alternative” Twitter accounts originating from various science and health agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Weather Service. Many of their messages carried Twitter hashtags #resist or #resistance.

An unofficial Badlands National Park account called @BadHombreNPS also emerged (a reference to one of Trump’s more memorable campaign remarks about Mexican immigrants) to post material that had been scrubbed from the official site earlier.

Because the Twitter feeds were set up and posted to anonymously as private accounts, they are beyond the control of the government.

(By Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Review of the life of John Glenn, first American to orbit Earth, dies at 95

Astronaut John Glenn gives the thumbs up as he rides in an open car with his wife Annie during a ticker tape parade down New York's "Canyon of Heroes" on lower Broadway in New York, U.S

By Will Dunham

(Reuters) – John Glenn, who became one of the 20th century’s greatest explorers as the first American to orbit Earth and later as the world’s oldest astronaut, and also had a long career as a U.S. senator, died in Ohio on Thursday at age 95.

Glenn, the last surviving member of the original seven American “Right Stuff” Mercury astronauts, died at the James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State University in Columbus, said Hank Wilson, a spokesman at the university’s John Glenn College of Public Affairs, which Glenn helped found.

Glenn was credited with reviving U.S. pride after the Soviet Union’s early domination of manned space exploration. His three laps around the world in the Friendship 7 capsule on Feb. 20, 1962, forged a powerful link between the former fighter pilot and the Kennedy-era quest to explore outer space as a “New Frontier.”

President Barack Obama, who in 2012 awarded Glenn the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, said: “With John’s passing, our nation has lost an icon.”

U.S. President Barack Obama awards a 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom to astronaut and former U.S. Senator John Glenn during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, May 29, 2012.

U.S. President Barack Obama awards a 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom to astronaut and former U.S. Senator John Glenn during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, May 29, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed

“When John Glenn blasted off from Cape Canaveral atop an Atlas rocket in 1962, he lifted the hopes of a nation,” Obama said in a statement. “And when his Friendship 7 spacecraft splashed down a few hours later, the first American to orbit the Earth reminded us that with courage and a spirit of discovery there’s no limit to the heights we can reach together.”

President-elect Donald Trump said on Twitter the United States had lost “a great pioneer of air and space in John Glenn. He was a hero and inspired generations of future explorers.”

As the third of seven astronauts in NASA’s solo-flight Mercury program to venture into space, Glenn became more of a media fixture than the others and was known for his composure and willingness to promote the program.

Glenn’s astronaut career, as well as his record as a fighter pilot in World War Two and the Korean War, helped propel him to the U.S. Senate in 1974, where he represented his home state of Ohio for 24 years as a moderate Democrat.

His star was dimmed somewhat by a Senate investigation of several senators on whether special favors were done for a major campaign contributor. He was cleared of wrongdoing.

Glenn’s entry into history came in early 1962 when fellow astronaut Scott Carpenter bade him “Godspeed, John Glenn” just before the Ohio native was rocketed into space for a record-breaking trip that would last just under five hours.

Astronaut John H. Glenn, Jr., is pictured during the Mercury-Atlas 6 spaceflight becoming the first American to orbit Earth, February 20, 1962, in this handout photo taken by a camera onboard the spacecraft, provided by NASA.

Astronaut John H. Glenn, Jr., is pictured during the Mercury-Atlas 6 spaceflight becoming the first American to orbit Earth, February 20, 1962, in this handout photo taken by a camera onboard the spacecraft, provided by NASA. REUTERS/NASA/Handout

‘VIEW IS TREMENDOUS’

“Zero-G (gravity) and I feel fine,” was Glenn’s succinct assessment of weightlessness several minutes into his mission. “Oh, and that view is tremendous.”

After splashdown and recovery in the Atlantic, Glenn was treated as a hero, addressing a joint session of Congress and feted in a New York ticker-tape parade.

Glenn had been hospitalized since Nov. 25. He “died peacefully,” according to a statement from his family and Ohio State University. “He left this earth for the third time as a happy and fulfilled person,” the statement said.

“Glenn’s extraordinary courage, intellect, patriotism and humanity were the hallmarks of a life of greatness. His missions have helped make possible everything our space program has since achieved and the human missions to an asteroid and Mars that we are striving toward now,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said.

Glenn’s experiences as a pioneer astronaut were chronicled in the book and movie “The Right Stuff,” along with the other Mercury pilots. The book’s author, Tom Wolfe, called Glenn “the last true national hero America has ever had.”

“I don’t think of myself that way,” Glenn told the New York Times in 2012 to mark the 50th anniversary of his flight. “I get up each day and have the same problems others have at my age. As far as trying to analyze all the attention I received, I will leave that to others.”

Glenn’s historic flight made him a favorite of President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert, who encouraged him to launch a political career that finally took off after a period as a businessman made him a millionaire.

HERO STATUS

Even before his Mercury flight, Glenn qualified for hero status, earning six Distinguished Flying Crosses and flying more than 150 missions in World War Two and the Korean War.

After Korea, Glenn became a test pilot, setting a transcontinental speed record from Los Angeles to New York in 1957.

The determination and single-mindedness that marked Glenn’s military and space career did not save him from misjudgments and defeat in politics. He lost his first bid for the Senate from Ohio in 1970, after abandoning a race in 1964 because of a head injury suffered in a fall.

He was elected in 1974 and was briefly considered as a running mate for Democratic presidential candidate Jimmy Carter in 1980. But a ponderous address at the Democratic National Convention – people walked out – caused Carter to remark that Glenn was “the most boring man I ever met.”

Glenn sought the Democratic presidential nomination himself in 1984 but was quickly eliminated by eventual nominee Walter Mondale, Carter’s vice president. His failure was all the more stinging because he had been touted as an early front-runner.

In the Senate, Glenn was respected as a thoughtful moderate with expertise in defense and foreign policy. His luster was dulled, however, by a Senate investigation of the “Keating Five” – five senators suspected of doing favors for campaign contributor Charles Keating Jr. The panel eventually found Glenn did nothing improper or illegal.

BACK TO SPACE

He took a leading role in seeking to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, especially to Pakistan. He was the author of a law that forced the United States to impose sanctions on India and Pakistan in 1998 after both countries conducted nuclear tests.

He also was a staunch advocate of a strong military and took a keen interest in strategic issues. He retired from the Senate in 1999.

Thirty-six years after his maiden space voyage, Glenn became America’s first geriatric astronaut on Oct. 29, 1998. He was 77 when he blasted off as a mission specialist aboard the shuttle Discovery. He saw it as a blow to the stereotyping of the elderly.

 

STS-95 crewmember, astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn poses for his official NASA photo taken April 14, 1998.

STS-95 crewmember, astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn poses for his official NASA photo taken April 14, 1998. Courtesy NASA/Handout via REUTERS

“Maybe prior to this flight, we were looked at as old geezers who ought to get out of the way,” Glenn said after his nine-day shuttle mission. “Just because you’re up in years some doesn’t mean you don’t have hopes and dreams and aspirations just as much as younger people do.”

John Herschel Glenn Jr. was born on July 18, 1921, in Cambridge, Ohio.

In his latter years, he was an adjunct professor at the John Glenn College of Public Affairs.

He had a knee replacement operation in 2011 and heart surgery in 2014.

Glenn is survived by his wife of 73 years, his childhood sweetheart, Annie Castor. They had two children, David and Lyn.

(Reporting by Will Dunham in Washington; Additional reporting by Irene Klotz in Cape Canaveral, Fla., and Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Bill Trott and Peter Cooney)

Former U.S. astronaut, Senator John Glenn dies in Ohio at 95

Senator John Glenn speaks with reporters, with his Daughter Lyn Glenn, during the christening ceremony for the USNS John Glenn at the General Dynamics NASSCO Shipyard in San Diego, California

By Will Dunham

(Reuters) – John Glenn, who became one of the 20th century’s greatest heroes as the first American to orbit Earth and later as the world’s oldest astronaut, in addition to a long career as a U.S. senator, died on Thursday at age of 95, Ohio’s governor said.

Glenn was the last surviving member of the original seven “Right Stuff” Mercury astronauts.

“John Glenn is, and always will be, Ohio’s ultimate hometown hero, and his passing today is an occasion for all of us to grieve,” Ohio Governor John Kasich said in a statement.

Glenn was credited with reviving U.S. pride after the Soviet Union’s early domination of manned space exploration. His three laps around the world in the Friendship 7 capsule on Feb. 20, 1962, forged a powerful link between the former fighter pilot and the Kennedy-era quest to explore outer space as a “New Frontier.”

As the third of seven astronauts in NASA’s solo-flight Mercury program to venture into space, Glenn became more of a media fixture than any of the others and was known for his composure and willingness to promote the program.

Glenn’s astronaut career, as well as his record as a fighter pilot in World War Two and the Korean War, helped propel him to the U.S. Senate in 1974, where he represented his home state of Ohio for 24 years as a moderate Democrat.

But his star was dimmed somewhat by a Senate investigation of several senators on whether special favors were done for a major campaign contributor. He was cleared of wrongdoing.

Glenn’s entry into history came in early 1961 when fellow astronaut Scott Carpenter bade him “Godspeed, John Glenn” just before the Ohio native was rocketed into space for a record-breaking trip that would last just under five hours.

“Zero-G (gravity) and I feel fine,” was Glenn’s succinct assessment of weightlessness several minutes into his mission. “… Oh, and that view is tremendous.”

After splashdown and recovery in the Atlantic, Glenn was treated as a hero, addressing a joint session of Congress and being feted in a New York ticker-tape parade.

His experiences as a pioneer astronaut were chronicled in the book and movie “The Right Stuff,” along with the other Mercury pilots. The book’s author, Tom Wolfe, called Glenn “the last true national hero America has ever had.”

“I don’t think of myself that way,” Glenn told the New York Times in 2012 to mark the 50th anniversary of his flight. “I get up each day and have the same problems others have at my age. As far as trying to analyze all the attention I received, I will leave that to others.”

Glenn’s historic flight made him a favorite of President John Kennedy and his brother Robert, who encouraged him to launch a political career that finally took off after a period as a businessman made him a millionaire.

(Reporting by Will Dunham in Washington; Editing by Bill Trott)

Super Moon To grace Earth’s Skies in coming days

The super moon appears in the sky in Cairo, Egypt, in this file photo taken October 17, 2016.

By Irene Klotz

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – The largest, brightest full moon in nearly seven decades will be on display in the coming days, promising Earth-bound sky-watchers a celestial “supermoon” spectacle.

The full moon will come nearer to Earth than at any time since 1948, astronomers said. At closest approach, which occurs at 6:23 a.m. EST on Monday, the moon will pass within 216,486 miles (348,400 km) of Earth’s surface, about 22,000 miles (35,400 km) closer than average, they added.

The moon’s distance from Earth varies because it is in an egg-shaped, not circular, orbit around the planet.

If skies are clear, the upcoming full moon will appear up to 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than usual, making it what is called a supermoon, according to NASA. A supermoon occurs when the timing of a full moon overlaps with the point in the moon’s 28-day orbit that is closest to Earth. About every 14th full moon is a supermoon, said University of Wisconsin astronomer Jim Lattis.

People watch as a supermoon rises over Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, October 16, 2016.

People watch as a supermoon rises over Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, October 16, 2016. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

The next time a full moon comes as close to Earth will be in 2034.

“If you could stack up full moons next to each other, there is clearly a difference,” Lattis said, but to a casual observer it is going to look very similar to a regular full moon.

Weather permitting, sky-watchers in North America and locations east of the International Dateline will have a better view on Sunday night since the moon will set less than three hours after closest approach on Monday.

“The difference in distance from one night to the next will be very subtle, so if it’s cloudy on Sunday, go out on Monday. Any time after sunset should be fine,” Noah Petro, deputy project scientist for NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, said in a statement.

(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Will Dunham)