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Curt Brown
IMAGE: STS-95 Commander Curt Brown
STS-95 Commander Curt Brown
Inflight Events
*Glenn's NASA 40th Anniversary Message
*U.S. News Conference
*Educational Event

Inflight Event:
Interviews with U.S. Media

Monday, Nov. 2, 1998

Event participants: STS-95 Commander Curt Brown and Payload Specialist John Glenn; CNN's Miles O'Brien and Walter Cronkite at JSC; ABC's Peter Jennings in New York; NBC's Tom Brokaw in New York; CBS's Dan Rather in New York; Fox's Neil Cavuto in New York

Brown: I'd like to take a moment to say hello to the Holliman family (the late John Holliman of CNN). We have a photo of John with us today onboard Discovery and we'd like to thank John for all the things he's done for our space program and we'd like to say he will always be in our hearts. And with that we are ready for your questions.

Walter Cronkite: All right, we thank you very much for that on behalf of the Holliman family. Let me ask you both, gentlemen. You had, by all accounts, much earned seven and a half hours off today. What did you do with your time?

Brown: Well, actually, to be honest, I was on the flight deck doing a lot of orbiter routine type daily operations such as dumping water and doing maneuvers and those kind of things.
So it was pretty nominal for me. I'll let John talk about his day off.

Glenn: Well, we did have a little bit of time off today and we did some things like making balls of water that can float out in front of you and you can inject them with bubbles and all sorts of things like that that are very, very unusual. That was sort of a time off experiment time but we've also been doing some other things too. I just finished about a half hour run on a cognition experiment that's right behind Curt over here. It's a computer that measures your reaction times here compared to tests we ran on the ground and we'll run after the flight. Things like that. We have also been monitoring some of the other things that you just can't let go for an indefinite period of time. It's not a one hundred percent day off but a little more relaxed day up here and we're enjoying it very much.

John, I gather despite [all that equipment you put on and sleeping in space] for the first time with all those electrodes, ten or more, feeding information of your sleep habits back to Earth -- you got a six-and-a-half hours of sleep. Is that about normal for you?

Glenn: I got a little more than that last night, Walter, got about seven hours I think last night and felt very good this morning. In fact, it's easier to sleep with all that on up here than it is on the ground. When you have all that head net with all of its things and you have some 21 different leads coming off the body, different parameters that are being measured, it makes, and a box around your middle to record all this on, and a body core temperature monitoring box, which I have on now, as a matter of fact. These things are easier up here, because there's no pressure points up here. You just move away from the pressure points. I had a good night's sleep last night, felt fine. I was really sleeping very, very soundly this morning when the wake-up music came in.

After that you were supposed to have played with the computer, some video games of some terrific kind to test your alertness this morning after the night's sleep. How did that go?

Glenn: Well, I just finished that a little while ago. That was to come later in the day, it wasn't right after the sleep. But I just finished that and I thought it went very well. I was surprised that there wasn't more drop off in my performance on the ground on reaction times and memory checks they do on you, short term memory and things like that that are inability to keep some track ball alignments in proper shape. I thought they went pretty well but we'll see when we get back on the ground or when the records are sent down how it compares with the preflight test.

John, we've been getting some questions for you over CNN Interactive on the Internet. Let me ask you one right here now from Chip Wilson of Ottawa, Canada. He asks do you think the average person will get a trip sometime in my generation? I'm 32 years old.

Glenn: Yes, I wouldn't be surprised but what you would, Chip, if you're listening right now. I think you may well get a chance to ride sometime. I think there'll come a time in the not too distant future where people may be able to go up. I think it'll be a little while yet because, you know, these are very expensive missions and the major reason we have these things is to do basic research up here not just to provide spots to ride. Those things that come out of…. well on this one flight we have some 83 different research experiments here many of them right out on the very cutting edge of science. So I think it will be a little while yet before people can just go up for a ride or we take average citizens. But as far as the ability of the average person to come up here, I think the average person in good health could come up and make a ride safely but it requires some training now and that's something that would have to be considered also.

I'm surprised, John, that your scientists haven't asked you this question. It comes from Rudy Tupick of Honeydew, South Africa. Does a person that suffers from snoring stop snoring in space with a no gravity environment?

Glenn: My experience up here is a little more limited than Curt. He's had more potential snorers up here than I have. I'll let him answer that.

Brown: Well, Walter, I haven't seen any individual snoring on my previous four flight or on this flight either. I'm not sure with the fluid shift to your body that that doesn't have a lot to do with the snoring phenomena and actually making it go away. I think that's part of the research John is doing and Chiaki is doing on the sleep experiment to see if there is any snoring in space.

Jennings: Well, Commander Brown, it's Peter Jennings. Thank you both for joining us very much. I have two questions for you, Commander Brown, first, if I may, and then I'd love to talk to Senator Glenn. Commander Brown, have you seen any of the damage in Central America from up there today?

Brown: Well, actually, Peter, it's just starting to clear as we passed over it the last couple revs, or revolutions around the Earth. We're starting to see some of the land again. Before that it was all covered with clouds so it was very hard to get any good visuals or take any good photos. So we're hoping in the next few days we'll get some good data for you.

Second question is about the future. Are you worried, Commander, that when Senator Glenn gets back on the ground that this rush of interest in space might dissipate?

Brown: Well, I sure hope not. It's very nice to see all the folks around the world and, you know, definitely the United States, very interested in our space program, our launch on Thursday, and, as I've seen in the news articles over the past few days, very interested in the continuation of the mission. I'm very happy about that and I hope that continues. I think maybe by this flight we'll get the word out and help people understand more about what we actually do on each shuttle mission. Therefore I think interest will stay up, at least that's what I hope.

Now if you wouldn't mind handing the microphone to Senator Glenn. Senator Glenn, you've had (several) hours to relax today. What constitutes relaxation in orbit?

Glenn: Well, relaxation in orbit, we did have a few hours off here although they've all the research on here and the experiments are still going on. What comprises relaxation here is really standing on your head and looking at things from a different direction or putting balls of water out that just float right in front of you. I guess maybe we should plan to do that sometime when we're on the air here. Or floating around up and down here, you know, I could just as well turn right here right now and turn your studio up one side or the other like this, Peter. If you can see me coming up there, that's not your studio turning over that's us turning up and that's just the normal part of the floating around up here. I'll have to get back in the picture here but things like that and just learning to live up here and experiment with different things as you take on this gravity, antigravity or negative gravity situation is enough to spend your free time looking at for a while.

Just like being a kid most of the time.

Glenn: Well, basically you could say that, yes. Remember when you were a kid and you tried to stand on your head and drink water and stand all, get all swung around so you were out of kilter with your reference points and you do that same thing up here very easily.

Senator Glenn, more seriously, you said that your faith has been reinforced by being in space, your faith as a Christian. Can you be precise about what you actually mean?

Glenn: Oh, not precise except when you look out from up here I don't see how anyone could look out from a space craft like this and see the part of creation that we can observe from here some 350 miles up and look at the Earth down there and go by it and go around it like this and not be impressed with creation and with the fact that… I think we have so many religious beliefs on Earth that all believe in a higher being and yet we somehow confuse what the ... our beliefs in God and we make war on each other over religious beliefs and so on. If you could just look down from up here and see what a beautiful Earth we live on perhaps everyone would be a little more peacefully inclined than we've been in the past.

Senator Glenn, you're a very fit 77 year old, everyone knows that. How would an ordinary 77 year old be faring if he or she were up there today?

Glenn: Well, I think you'd have to be in good health to come up here and I guess I'm in pretty good, at least the doctors tell me that. But an average 77-year-old person that's in good health could certainly come up here and experience this. I think in the past we've had, there've been a lot of cases of space sickness, we've been not plagued with that on this flight and I haven't been. I've felt fine ever since I got up here. I was curious, quite frankly, about what would happen to me because I have some tendency towards seasickness although I don't get particularly airsick. I guess I'm unusual in that respect. Up here I have felt fine the whole trip and I'm glad to be participating and doing all the things we try to do here. We have, as I said, we have some 83 different experiments. We have some right behind us here that we were asked about a little while ago. We have an osteoporosis experiment that's back here under Curt. We have cognition reaction time thing that I was taking part in a little while ago here. We have cell cultures growing in two of the lockers right behind us here. These are the basic reasons why we're up here. Things like that multiplied about 83 times.

Brokaw: Senator Glenn, this is Tom Brokaw. Can you hear me?

Brown: Tom, Discovery has you loud and clear.

Thank you very much, Commander Brown. Senator Glenn, let me ask you. You've flown two combat tours, World War II and Korea. You're also the first American in [orbit]. You've known the agony of defeat as well as the thrill of victory in politics. Where does the flight of the shuttle Discovery rank on the adrenaline scale for you?

Glenn: Not on the adrenaline scale. I wouldn't say not that high on the adrenaline scale. You know, when you're getting shot at in combat and hit in your airplane that raises the adrenaline a little bit because you know people are out to kill you. Here we're trying to stay alive and doing an excellent job that's very…. It's been a fine mission so far. There's a rush of adrenaline when you're getting ready to launch, obviously, off the pad there and feeling that acceleration off the launch pad. That was a great feeling though but a time of excitement. Up here, once you get acclimated to getting around and floating free up here in this environment, why it's great. You just look forward to keeping it up here and trying to do as much as we can to get as much information that will benefit people right there on Earth. In my particular case, get enough information so we can benefit those 34 million Americans that are over 65 and that figure's due to go to a hundred million by the year 2050. This may just be a trigger off of that kind of research into the future that I hope can benefit an awful lot of people. That's the reason we're up here.

Senator Glenn, we asked some young viewers who are watching all of this and also participating on to submit some questions. Eleven year old Danielle Perland of New Jersey wants to know whether the Earth looks any different to you now than it did back in 1962 when you were making a lot fewer orbits, obviously, onboard Mercury 7. Can you see any signs of pollution, she wants to know?

Glenn: I haven't noticed any signs of pollution myself today although some of the previous flights that have used different film and observations of different areas around the world have shown an increase in pollution. I think one of the things we have to be very, very careful of is the pollution because if you look out up here and look at the horizon and realize what a thin little, we don't even live in a film of air on the Earth. It's just a, it's not a layer, it's a film. You know when you're at 40,000 feet in an air liner you're above 80 percent of the Earth's atmosphere. Of course, when we're up here much higher, you look back at the horizon, it curves off to either side, and you see that thin little layer of air that we live in. It really impresses you with how careful we better be with our environment, I know that. Now as far as comparing this with the earlier flight, I've had far more chance to look out of this flight, of course. We're on… what are we on now? The 58th rev or 59th and I had five before. Now before I was able to glance up out the window at any time and on this flight I'm down in the mid deck doing a lot of things, participating in all the, some of the research and the other activity here so I don't have that much time to look out the window. But I've been able to get up and do a lot of observing outside and I'm just so impressed with the view you get from here. We're 500 [kilometers] up, which is more than double the height I was at before.

Senator, we have an old friend of yours with me here in the studio and I think he has a question for you -- Scott Carpenter.

Carpenter: Hello, John. I'm so glad it's going well for you. I know we're going to learn a lot for science from this flight but it occurs to me that you're going to learn something too. You thought you were a guinea pig for the first flight, this time you're a guinea pig in space.

Glenn: You're right, Scott, and, you know, back then we did all, I don't know how many times we got stuck with needles back then but there's more in-flight needle work this time, I can guarantee you that. We did a lot of measurements back in those days too getting started and trying to find out what we could or could not do. Each flight has built on that since then and now we're on a real… This is a flying laboratory up here and I guess I may be a guinea pig but I'm a participating and willing guinea pig on this flight too.

Brokaw: Senator Glenn, any change in body function? I know the viewers will notice that your face is a lot puffier. Any other changes briefly?

Glenn: No, the face, you know, everyone has a fluid shift up here, me included. The fluid shift comes up to your head and makes your face look a little more round, but that's going down now as a matter of fact. It was much puffier, at least it felt that way to me. I think just looking at other people on the crew here, all of our faces are going back down a little bit toward normal now, although may be a little bit puffy yet. It's not uncomfortable and doesn't cause you any pain or anything like that at all. Of course, once we start back down again, we'll readjust the other way as we have, as your body senses it needs more fluid and that shift occurs the other direction. We'll have to fluid load, as they call it, when we start down.

Rather: Well good day to you, John Glenn and Commander Curt Brown. Glad to see you looking so well. How's that 77 year old body and mind holding up up there, Senator Glenn?

Glenn: It seems to be holding up pretty good, Dan, as far as I can tell, doing great. I went through some testing a little while ago here on some, oh, some reaction times, things like that, cognition testing they call it, and I was pleasantly surprised how well I did compared to tests on the ground. I think things are working out very well. We've been doing a lot of the research up here, of course. We've got some 83 different research experiments onboard, that's the main reason we're up here. Just the personal aspects of being here which you referred to in one of the body changes of fat face, or fat head you could call us all up here, is a different way of, a different response than you ever have to anything you do on Earth. This one you readapt to when you come back to Earth also.

Briefly explain to me why you've appeared to be so puffy for so long. It seems to be going down today.

Glenn: Yes, it is going down I think. Everyone has this fluid shift. Your body senses it no longer needs the same amount of fluid in the lower extremities and then the abdominal area and the fluid tends to shift up towards your head. You wind up with sort of a puffy face and puffy head, round looking faces up here but after a few days that also goes down, you become more normal looking. I think we're in the process of getting to that right now so that's one of the little changes that occurs in the body in space.

Now you were the mouse in this sleep experiment. Did you dream up there in space?

Glenn: No, you know, I have not yet. Last night I slept very well, very soundly. I had all that sleep experiment equipment on. I had 21, I think its 21, different body leads, or body parameters, being measured and recorded on a recorder, one around my middle and a, oh measure deep body core temperature. I still have that recorder on now. The sleep net that measures all the brain waves and the eye movements and things like that. I hope that is all very good data and I hope it lets the scientists learn more about what the age, the differences may be in ages in the responses up here in space. What we're looking for are the things in the human body that will, to find out what turns the human body on and off in such things as sleep irregularities, muscle protein changes that we're also looking at, body's immune system changes, cardiovascular changes. All of these things are things that occur in the elderly as the natural process of aging and they occur in the younger up here as part of the natural process of space flight. Now they recover when they come back to Earth. It's going to be very interesting to see what my recovery time is compared to theirs and see whether we can get any leads on learning what turns the body off and on in some of these areas. That will be of interest not only to future astronauts, younger people, but also to the elderly right there on Earth.

Commander Curt Brown, a younger man, have you dreamed while you've been up there and, if so, what?

Brown: Well, actually I can honestly say I've had no dreams. I'm usually, well I think everyone has dreams, let's put it that way, and I just don't remember them if I had them. I usually, when I hit the sack, get to sleep pretty quickly and usually have to be waken up by my alarm clock so I'm always happy to hit the sack. We work very hard up here and have very full days.

Well, Senator Glenn, let's have some fun. Let's talk politics for a minute. How about making a couple of calls on races in tomorrow's election?

Glenn: Not going to make any calls. I'll tell you one thing we did there that I hope you'll pass along. I just hope everybody gets out and votes. We all voted absentee before we left and if we can take time to do that, Dan, why I think everybody can get out and vote. The people that don't vote just turn their franchise for helping run this democracy of ours over to fewer and fewer people and that's not good for the country. So I just hope that maybe we can encourage more people to get out and vote whatever your political beliefs are, get out there and express them. That's critical in a democracy or democracy goes down hill if people don't take that opportunity to express themselves at the polls. Maybe we can encourage everybody to get out the vote tomorrow and make your selections, whatever your political party, get out there and express yourselves at the polls.

Thank you and good luck to both of you. We'll be eager to welcome you home.

Cavuto: Joining us live from the Space Shuttle Discovery, Senator John Glenn with the Commander of this mission, Curtis Brown. Gentlemen, good to have you.

Brown: Welcome aboard Discovery.

Thank you very much, Commander Brown. Commander, I want to begin with you if you don't mind. Are you annoyed about all the attention that's being given that fella next to you?

Brown: Actually, no, none of the crew members are, I hate to use the word annoyed that's probably the wrong word, but we're happy John's getting attention and we're more than happy that the space program and Discovery on this very important mission is getting the attention. We're doing a lot of good research up here and it's nice that we can get the word out and everyone around the country and around the world can hear what we're doing. We're very excited about it and I think it's good science for the whole world.

Senator Glenn, there is a rumor, sir, that you want to go up on a third mission. In other words another mission after this. Your wife commented today no third mission, she's had it.

Glenn: That's the boss I'll tell you right there. Annie is, was a little reluctant on this mission until she found out the importance of it and then sat in on some of the lectures and heard some of the scientists talk about the things we're going to do on this flight and then she became excited about this flight. But I think she would be hard pressed to put up with another one. Let me comment just on what you said a moment ago about all the attention on me on this flight. I do wish there was more attention on other people here. These interviews and all seem to center on me and I guess there's a reason for it. I do wish that they'd center on some of the rest of the people on this flight because this is truly a brilliant bunch of people and I don't say that just because I'm up here with them now. They're very selected by NASA. You know each time there's a, 20 or 30 openings at NASA, they get somewhere between two and three thousand applicants and these are the people who were selected out of that kind of a process and then selected for flights like this even from that select group. So they're brilliant people and doing wonderful work in research up here that's of benefit not just to us up here but to everybody right where you live. Right in your own house, under your own roof all across our country. That's what built the United States, was a curious, questing spirit that tried to go out and learn new things. We're on the cutting edge of science with some 83 projects on this particular flight and these are brilliant people I'm up here associated with. I'm just honored to be here.

Senator, there's talk that you had maybe a special arrangement or because who you are got you up there. Is that true?

Glenn: Well, you know, I suppose there was some attention because I was in the Senate for so many years and I've been up before. The older I got the less I thought there would be another flight possibility for me. What happened back about four years ago was we noted some of the similarities between aging and what happens to the younger astronauts up here. The National Institute of Aging and NASA together put together a program and I presented this to Dan Goldin, Administrator at NASA Headquarters. The first thing he said was it has to make sense from a science standpoint or it's no go and I would have to pass the physical if I was to be considered. I was right in the age bracket they wanted right around 75, mid 70's. So the science did make sense, they put it out for peer review, was studied by NASA and by NIA for a period before a decision was made. Their scientists decided it was well worthwhile and so it's done on that basis and that alone. This was not just some political favor.

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 03/04/2003
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