MRiccobono at nfb.org
Wed Feb 15 09:19:59 CST 2012
I deeply appreciate what you have said. Although it is interesting, I have know interest personally in becoming an astronaut but I can see the path for blind people to get there. This was an important step. This Federation we have does great things, let's keep building it...
P.S. Louis Braille's 202nd birthday was January 4th. His determination to create a system for blind individuals to read and write has made literacy for millions of people across the world a reality. You can learn more about NFB Braille initiatives by visiting www.Braille.org<blocked::http://www.braille.org/>.
Mark A. Riccobono, M.S.ed
Executive Director, Jernigan Institute
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
Phone: (410) 659-9314 ext. 2357
Fax: (410) 659-5129
Email: mriccobono at nfb.org<mailto:mriccobono at nfb.org>
From: Fred Wurtzel [mailto:f.wurtzel at att.net]
Sent: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 9:43 PM
To: 'NFB of Michigan Internet Mailing List'; Riccobono, Mark
Cc: Marywurtzel at att.net; jan ewing; mikeeellis at comcast.net; emailmee at comcast.net; 'George Wurtzel'
I'm not sure how many of our Michigan people are aware that last week Mark Riccobono flew in the NASA airplane that simulates weightlessness. Mark experienced various levels of weightlessness during his time in the air. Taking this flight is training for people who may someday go into space. As you all do know, Mark drove our Blind Driver Challenge car last year in Daytona. As the article Below says hero is an elastic term, but to me, mark sure sets a high bar for all of us and shows bravery and determination as he helps all of us achieve first-class citizenship. Someone has said that the first blind astronaut has been born. Not sure who it is, yet, but Mark is paving that person's way. Enjoy the article below and remember any of us can be a hero at any moment.
Science and Health News of the Times, the BBC, and the Washington Post
Times Science and Health news for the week of Tuesday 2/14/2012
50 Years Later, Celebrating John Glenn's Feat
By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD
In the winter of 1962, the nation needed a hero.
Americans had yet to recover from the Soviet Union's launching of the
first spacecraft, Sputnik, in October 1957 -- a rude jolt to our
confidence as world leaders in all things technological. The space race
Soon after he took office in 1961, President John F. Kennedy had thrown
down the challenge to send men to the Moon by the end of the decade.
But the Russians still set the pace, boastfully. They launched a dog
into orbit, then the first man, Yuri A. Gagarin, and another, Gherman
The United States lagged, managing only two 15-minute suborbital
astronaut flights -- only five minutes of weightlessness each time.
Then, on Feb. 20, 1962 -- 50 years ago next Monday -- a Marine Corps
fighter pilot from small-town America stepped forward in response to
the country's need. The astronaut was John Glenn, whom the author
Tom Wolfe has called "the last true national hero America has ever
Squeezed into the cockpit of a Mercury spacecraft called Friendship
7, launched by an Atlas rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., Mr. Glenn
circled the Earth three times, becoming the first American to orbit
the planet. Perhaps no other spaceflight -- all 4 hours, 55 minutes and
23 seconds of it -- has been followed by so many with such paralyzing
Mr. Glenn saw three sunsets and sunrises that Tuesday, from a maximum
altitude of 162 miles. At each sunrise, an explosion of what looked
like fireflies appeared outside the window, mystifying him. Then came a
signal of a suspected problem that had ground controllers bracing for
an uncertain, possibly catastrophic re-entry into the atmosphere.
The ending was a happy one. A collective sigh of relief was heard
across the land. The president rushed off to Cape Canaveral to hail the
returning hero. Bands played. Ticker tape streamed from the high
windows of Broadway. People cried. Never mind that a Soviet cosmonaut
had already spent 25 hours in orbit. As Mr. Wolfe has written, "John
Glenn made us whole again!"
Now, at 90, Mr. Glenn was reminded in one of two lengthy interviews
that the author of "The Right Stuff" had judged him the country's last
true hero. His response was a kind of dismissive aw shucks. "Hero" is
an elastic word, after all, stretchable to fit a favorite ballplayer or
a great conqueror in war or discovery -- almost anyone admirable.
"I don't think of myself that way," Mr. Glenn said. "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."
(For his part, Mr. Wolfe stood by his characterization, saying a
national hero was someone seen as "a great protector" of the people.
"He really wasn't their protector, but that's what people felt and
thought," he said of Mr. Glenn in an interview last week. "He made them
cry, and this made him a hero.")
On Saturday, Mr. Glenn will again get a hero's welcome at Cape
Canaveral for a reunion with the dwindling Mercury space team, those
remaining managers, engineers and technicians who sent the first
Americans into space. On Monday and Tuesday, he will be honored with a
dinner and a spaceflight forum at Ohio State University, home of the
John Glenn School of Public Affairs.
Mr. Glenn keeps an office at the school, holds seminars with students
and is close to the archive of papers from his careers as an astronaut
and, later, a four-term United States senator from Ohio and a candidate
in the 1984 Democratic presidential primaries. It is quite an archive:
about 1,800 boxes of materials. "I was a pack rat," he said.
He and his wife, Anna (he calls her Annie), divide their time between a
house in a suburb of Washington and a condominium in Columbus. She was
his childhood sweetheart, and their marriage has stood the test of
almost 69 years of devotion in the turbulence of spaceflight and
politics. From the time they came to public attention, each has seemed
the other's center of gravity.
Through years of therapy, Mr. Glenn said, Annie has overcome the severe
stammer that had made her ill at ease at public appearances. "She can
give speeches now," he said, and she likes talking to students of
speech pathology. Both have had knee-replacement surgery.
Their knees had made it hard for them, especially Annie, to climb on
the wing and into the cabin of their twin-engine Beechcraft Baron. They
used to fly it on vacations and back and forth to Washington, sometimes
logging as many as 160 airborne hours a year. Last month, as a
concession to their aging knees, the Glenns sold their airplane, but
Mr. Glenn was pleased to say he still has a valid pilot's license.
The other honored guest at the anniversary events in Cape Canaveral
will be M. Scott Carpenter, the Mercury astronaut who was Mr. Glenn's
backup and radio link, called capcom, in the launching blockhouse that
day of flight. The two are the only surviving members of what were
known as the Mercury Seven. Virgil I. Grissom died in 1967 in an
Apollo spacecraft fire during a launching-pad test. Donald K.
Slayton died of cancer in 1993. Alan B. Shepard Jr. died of
leukemia in 1998. L. Gordon Cooper Jr. died of natural causes in
2004. Walter M. Schirra Jr. died of a heart attack in 2007.
In 1998, his last year in the Senate, the first American to orbit Earth
became, at 77, the oldest person to travel in space. Mr. Glenn felt he
still had enough of the right stuff. He had continued to pilot his own
airplane and had kept in shape -- "attitude and exercise," he said,
"that's what keeps you going" -- and he persuaded NASA to let him
fly on the space shuttle Discovery and conduct tests on the
physiological effects of nine days of weightlessness on older people.
In the recent interviews, Mr. Glenn said, "I am not at all happy with
some of the directions the space program is going, in particular
retiring the space shuttles before we have a new heavy-lift launching
system in place."
Mr. Glenn said he was concerned that since the final shuttle flight
last July, the United States must depend on the Russian Soyuz space
vehicles for ferrying astronauts to and from the International Space
Station, assembled in orbit at a cost well over $100 billion, mainly
from American taxpayers. The Soyuz is limited to three passengers and
about 125 pounds of gear, hardly sufficient for hauling replacement
parts for the space station.
"If the Russians had a hiccup with Soyuz, our manned space program
would be ended, maybe for years," Mr. Glenn said.
In a meeting with President Obama two years ago, Mr. Glenn made his
case for continuing shuttle flights and full space station operations
for several more years, contrary to President George W. Bush's policy
that a new generation of boosters and spacecraft would be developed
with the savings from the cancellation of shuttle operations. "The
president didn't disagree with any of my arguments," he recalled. "He
said we just don't have the money."
As Mr. Glenn settled into recollections of that February day in 1962,
the interview glided into easy conversation over shared memories. Ten
times over almost a month the launching was scheduled, only to be
scrubbed because of poor weather or mechanical glitches. "On again, off
again," Mr. Glenn said. "I actually suited up four times, and two times
was up on top of the Atlas, strapped into Friendship 7, ready to go."
Reporters from all over the world grew restive, desperate for anything
to write about. After one cancellation, Mercury information officers
begged Mr. Glenn to give them something to tell the journalists. When
he got off the booster, he went running on the beach and happened to
see where sea turtles had buried their eggs. This was duly reported,
and one writer remarked that it was understood the astronaut had a good
recipe for turtle egg soup.
"Well, that got me into a whole lot of trouble with environmentalists,"
Mr. Glenn recalled. "I got mail calling me everything but a good guy,
and should be replaced."
The waiting got so tiresome for the press corps that when a waitress at
one of the watering holes was shot dead by her boyfriend around
midnight, some reporters rushed to file the story. A London tabloid
declared it "the first successful shot here in weeks."
Mr. Glenn said he had not heard that tale before.
At last, on the 11th attempt, with his backup, Mr. Carpenter, bidding
"Godspeed, John Glenn," Friendship 7 lifted off for its three orbits of
Earth. Christopher C. Kraft Jr., the flight director, remembers,
"Nothing about John Glenn's flight was easy."
At first sunrise, Mr. Glenn saw a swarm of greenish-yellow lights
outside the craft, reminding him of fireflies. He saw them again at the
other sunrises. "No one had anticipated this, and it was fascinating,"
he said. "Turns out these were tiny moisture particles vented from the
heat-exchange system, but I don't know if we have ever explained their
Near the end of the first orbit, trouble with the automatic control
system forced Mr. Glenn to take manual control for much of the
remaining orbits. He felt he was truly the pilot, not a passenger on
autopilot. Not "Spam in a can," in the minds of the veteran test pilots
unimpressed by these new astronauts.
Then a signal sent to the ground warned of a potentially more serious
problem. It indicated that the craft had a loose heat shield. Flight
controllers suspected it was a spurious signal, but could not be sure.
They decided not to jettison the retro rockets after they braked the
capsule for its descent. The retro-pack should keep the heat shield in
place and prevent serious damage to the capsule.
"Glancing out the window during re-entry," Mr. Glenn recalled, "I was
seeing big chunks of something coming off. It was the retro-pack, not
the heat shield, thank goodness. It had been a false alarm. If you go
to the Air and Space Museum in Washington, you can see the burn
patterns on Friendship 7."
In the epilogue to "The Right Stuff," his best seller on the original
seven astronauts, Mr. Wolfe wrote that the day of Glenn the hero "when
an astronaut could parade up Broadway while traffic policemen wept in
the intersections," was no more. An era, he continues, "had come, and
it had gone, perhaps never to be relived."
But in a time short of heroes, John Glenn keeps alive the memory..
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