They insist they're not worried, that everything will be fine when astronaut-in-training John Glenn straps into the centrifuge and is spun around at a force three times gravity.
But "just to make sure," Air Force officials planned to have an ambulance standing by when the centrifuge starts whirling its oldest rider ever. And the 76-year-old senator had the option of hooking himself to an electrocardiogram monitor for the simulated space shuttle launch.So goes training for NASA's newest and oldest astronaut, who will return to orbit in October as part of a study on aging. He reported for training this week at Johnson Space Center in Houston. With Congress in recess, the Ohio Democrat is squeezing in as much as he can before returning to his Senate duties in Washington next week.
The centrifuge ride at Brooks Air Force Base is required of all first-time space shuttle fliers to acquaint them with the rigors of launch. It comes on the eve of the 36th anniversary of Glenn's historic flight in which he became America's first man to orbit Earth.
The oldest person to ride the centrifuge, until now, was 64, said Lt. Col. Jim Dooley.
"Hey, this guy is in great shape," said Dooley, showing off the centrifuge Wednesday. "He's 76 years old, but he's in wonderful shape."