"Godspeed, John Glenn . . . and, uh, the rest of you'

Friday, October 16, 1998

The Associated Press

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- NASA is stewing over what to say when space shuttle Discovery blasts off Oct. 29, carrying the first American to orbit the Earth.

Will it be "Godspeed, John Glenn" again?

Or "Godspeed, John Glenn and everybody else on board"?

Or maybe just "Godspeed, +1l Discovery"?

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration wants to work in a "Godspeed" to commemorate this 36-year repeat of space history. Problem is: seven people will be on board this time and launch controllers recoil at the thought of singling out any one person -- even if it's Mr. Glenn, who, at age 77, will become the oldest person ever in space.

The last person inside launch control to address the crew before liftoff, Ray Propst, has been soliciting ideas for weeks.

Mr. Propst considers "Godspeed" a little stale; it's been used on more than a few launches, after all. He'd like something a little more original.

"I would like to have something for everybody, but maybe try to bring something back that reflects some of the history of John," he said. "But that's going to be tough."

Scott Carpenter, the Mercury astronaut who was Mr. Glenn's backup in 1962, says he came up with "Godspeed, John Glenn" -- which preceded the final 10 to 15 seconds of the count -- at the spur of the moment.

"May the good Lord ride all the way," test conductor Tom O'Malley said after he pushed the black launch-sequence button for Friendship 7. Mr. Carpenter's "Godspeed, John Glenn" immediately followed.

"In those days, speed was magic because that's all that was required is the proper speed pointed in the right direction, and nobody had gone that fast," Mr. Carpenter said. "If you can get that speed you're home-free."

Previous Glenn reports

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