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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index G > John Glenn, Jr. Quotes

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John Glenn, Jr.
(18 Jul 1921 - 8 Dec 2016)

American astronaut and statesman who was the third American in space, and the first American to orbit the Earth (20 Feb 1962) in NASA's Mercury program.

Science Quotes by John Glenn, Jr. (28 quotes)

Photo of John Glenn in silver space flight suit entering his capsule feet first through a small hatch. The capsule looks small.
Glenn climbs into his Friendship 7 capsule for his historic flight on 20 Feb 1962. (source)
As I hurtled through space, one thought kept crossing my mind—every part of this rocket was supplied by the lowest bidder.
— John Glenn, Jr.
Seen on the Internet, but Webmaster believes the wording is not verbatim, but is a shortened, rewording of the longer quote at launch time. seen elsewhere on this page. The earliest example of the shortened quote found by Webmaster is as an epigraph in Philip Kaplan, Big Wings: The Largest Aeroplanes Ever Built (2006), 92.
Science quotes on:  |  Bidder (2)  |  Lowest (7)  |  Part (146)  |  Rocket (29)  |  Space (154)  |  Supply (31)  |  Thought (374)

As to how far in advance of the first flight the man should know he’s going. I’m not in agreement with the argument that says word should be delayed until the last possible moment to save the pilot from developing a bad case of the jitters. If we don’t have the confidence to keep from getting clutched at that time, we have no business going at all. If I’m the guy going, I’ll be glad to get the dope as soon as possible. As for keeping this a big secret from us and having us all suited up and then saying to one man “you go” and stuffing him in and putting the lid on that thing and away he goes, well, we’re all big boys now.
— John Glenn, Jr.
As he wrote in an article for Life (14 Sep 1959), 38. In fact, he was the first to fly in Earth orbit on 20 Feb 1962, though Alan Shepard was picked for the earlier first suborbital flight.
Science quotes on:  |  Advance (123)  |  Agreement (29)  |  Argument (59)  |  Bad (78)  |  Big (33)  |  Boy (33)  |  Case (64)  |  Clutch (2)  |  Confidence (32)  |  Delay (8)  |  Develop (55)  |  Dope (2)  |  First (174)  |  Flight (45)  |  Glad (4)  |  Go (6)  |  Going (6)  |  Keep (47)  |  Know (321)  |  Last (19)  |  Moment (61)  |  Pilot (10)  |  Save (46)  |  Say (126)  |  Secret (98)  |  Soon (17)  |  Stuff (15)  |  Suit (7)  |  Word (221)

Could this have just happened? Was it an accident that a bunch of flotsam and jetsam suddenly started making these orbits of its own accord? I can't believe that. … Some power put all this into orbit and keeps it there.
— John Glenn, Jr.
Reflecting on the orderliness of the whole universe, printed in Reader’s Digest (Jul 1962), 38. As cited in Tiebet Joshua, Bible Versus Science: Which is More Authentic? (2015), Sec. 4.1.
Science quotes on:  |  Accident (54)  |  Belief (400)  |  Flotsam (2)  |  Happen (63)  |  Jetsam (2)  |  Orbit (58)  |  Power (273)  |  Start (68)  |  Sudden (21)

I don’t think many people remember what life was like in those days. This was the era when the Russians were claiming superiority, and they could make a pretty good case—they put up Sputnik in ’57; they had already sent men into space to orbit the earth. There was this fear that perhaps communism was the wave of the future. The astronauts, all of us, really believed we were locked in a battle of democracy versus communism, where the winner would dominate the world.
— John Glenn, Jr.
As reported by Howard Wilkinson in 'John Glenn Had the Stuff U.S. Heroes are Made of', The Cincinnati Enquirer (20 Feb 2002).
Science quotes on:  |  Astronaut (22)  |  Battle (30)  |  Belief (400)  |  Claim (52)  |  Communism (8)  |  Democracy (21)  |  Dominate (13)  |  Earth (487)  |  Era (14)  |  Fear (113)  |  Future (229)  |  Orbit (58)  |  Remember (53)  |  Russia (9)  |  Space (154)  |  Sputnik (4)  |  Superiority (9)  |  Winner (2)  |  World (667)

I felt exactly how you would feel if you were getting ready to launch and knew you were sitting on top of two million parts—all built by the lowest bidder on a government contract.
— John Glenn, Jr.
His reply to the question, often asked, “When you were sitting in that capsule listening to the count-down, how did you feel?” From speech announcing his Senate retirement (20 Feb 1997). As recorded in 'A Genuine American Hero Says He'll Retire', Tributes Delivered in Congress: John Glenn (1998) in U.S. Government Printing Office, U.S. Congress: Senate, Vol 105, Issue 34, 52. (A similar reference to “the lowest bidder on a government contract” has also been attributed to Alan Shepard.)
Science quotes on:  |  Bidder (2)  |  Capsule (6)  |  Contract (8)  |  Countdown (2)  |  Feel (93)  |  Government (85)  |  Launch (8)  |  Lowest (7)

I had a wonderful time the first time. I think I was probably more nervous back in those days because we did not know much about spaceflight in those days; we were sort of feeling our way and finding out what would happen to the human body in space and now we are putting the whole thing to work for everybody up here so I think I was a little more nervous the first time.
— John Glenn, Jr.
Replying to a Whetstone High School students’ question during a school forum held using a downlink with the Discovery Space Shuttle mission (31 Oct 1998). On NASA web page 'STS-95 Educational Downlink'. Sarah Ravely, Holleh Moheimani, Janara Walker asked, “Senator Glenn, were you more nervous being the first American to orbit the Earth or to be the oldest man ever in space?”
Science quotes on:  |  Happen (63)  |  Human Body (30)  |  Knowledge (1128)  |  Nervous (5)  |  Space (154)  |  Space Flight (21)

I pray every day and I think everybody should. I don’t think you can be up here and look out the window as I did the first day and look out at the Earth from this vantage point. We’re not so high compared to people who went to the moon and back. But to look out at this kind of creation out here and not believe in God is, to me, impossible. It just strengthens my faith.
— John Glenn, Jr.
From NASA transcript of News Conference by downlink from Space Shuttle Discovery during its STS-95 Mission in Earth orbit (5 Nov 1998). In response to question from Paul Hoveston of USA Today asking John Glenn about how the space flight strengthened his faith and if he had any time to pray in orbit.
Science quotes on:  |  Belief (400)  |  Creation (211)  |  Earth (487)  |  Faith (131)  |  God (454)  |  Impossible (68)  |  Moon (132)  |  Pray (13)  |  Strengthen (13)  |  Window (25)

I still find it hard to believe how far we have come, from the time I first flew on Friendship 7 and the Discovery flight. I go from being crammed into a capsule the size of a telephone booth to a place where I could live and work in space. … Amazing.
— John Glenn, Jr.
As quoted by Howard Wilkinson in 'John Glenn Had the Stuff U.S. Heroes are Made of', The Cincinnati Enquirer (20 Feb 2002).
Science quotes on:  |  Amazing (16)  |  Capsule (6)  |  Cram (4)  |  Flight (45)  |  Friendship 7 (3)  |  Live (186)  |  Space (154)  |  Telephone Booth (2)  |  Work (457)

If there is one thing I’ve learned in my years on this planet, it’s that the happiest and most fulfilled people I’ve known are those who devoted themselves to something bigger and more profound than merely their own self interest.
— John Glenn, Jr.
From speech (3 Oct 1977) announcing he was donating his papers to Ohio State University. As quoted on the OSU website.
Science quotes on:  |  Bigger (3)  |  Devoted (8)  |  Fulfilled (2)  |  Happiest (2)  |  Interest (170)  |  Learn (160)  |  Mere (41)  |  Profound (46)  |  Self (39)

If this cynicism and apathy are allowed to continue to fester, it will not only be dangerous, but in our democracy it will be suicidal.
— John Glenn, Jr.
Stating (1998) his commitment upon the announcement of the creation of the John Glenn Institute of Public Service and Public Policy Institute. As quoted on the OSU website, which also gives that in letters and documents from 1997, when he announced his retirement after four U.S. Senate terms, Glenn underscored his intent to dedicate his time toward dispelling “the apathy, mistrust and outright cynicism among our young people", which he saw as “a looming danger for the future of the country.”
Science quotes on:  |  Allow (24)  |  Apathy (3)  |  Continue (38)  |  Cynicism (4)  |  Dangerous (45)  |  Democracy (21)

It’s an advantage up here for older folks because in Zero-g you can move around much more easily.
— John Glenn, Jr.
Replying to a Delta Middle School students’ question during a school forum held using a downlink with the Discovery Space Shuttle mission 31 Oct 1998. On NASA web page 'STS-95 Educational Downlink'. Jeff Butz, Matt Lewis, Dawn VanDyke and Jessica Burger asked “Senator Glenn, do you feel younger when you are in space?”
Science quotes on:  |  Advantage (42)  |  Easily (16)  |  Folk (6)  |  Move (58)  |  Older (5)

Knowledge begets knowledge. The more I see, the more impressed I am not with what we know but with how tremendous the areas are as yet unexplored.
— John Glenn, Jr.
Science quotes on:  |  Area (18)  |  Beget (3)  |  Impressed (10)  |  Know (321)  |  Knowledge (1128)  |  See (197)  |  Tremendous (11)  |  Unexplored (11)

Many times every day I think of taking off in that missile. I’ve tried a thousand times to visualize that moment, to anticipate how I’ll feel if I’m first, which I very much want to be. But whether I go first or go later. I approach it now with some awe, and I’m sure I’ll approach it with even more awe on my day. In spite of the fact that I will he very busy getting set and keeping tabs on all the instruments, there’s no question that I’ll need—and will have—all my confidence.
— John Glenn, Jr.
As he wrote in an article for Life (14 Sep 1959), 38.
Science quotes on:  |  Anticipate (8)  |  Approach (33)  |  Awe (24)  |  Busy (21)  |  Confidence (32)  |  Feel (93)  |  First (174)  |  Instrument (73)  |  Later (11)  |  Missile (5)  |  Moment (61)  |  Need (211)  |  Question (315)  |  Think (205)  |  Thousand (106)  |  Time (439)  |  Try (103)  |  Visualize (5)  |  Want (120)

People have been looking up at the skies for 10,000 years, wondering and dreaming. I hope we always do.
— John Glenn, Jr.
As quoted by Howard Wilkinson in 'John Glenn Had the Stuff U.S. Heroes are Made of', The Cincinnati Enquirer (20 Feb 2002)
Science quotes on:  |  Dream (92)  |  Hope (129)  |  Look (46)  |  Sky (68)  |  Thousand (106)  |  Wonder (134)  |  Year (214)

Personally, I feel sorry for those who seem to measure their patriotism by how often and how viciously they can criticise our government.
— John Glenn, Jr.
As recorded in United States Congressional Serial Set (2000), 51.
Science quotes on:  |  Criticise (2)  |  End (141)  |  Feel (93)  |  Feel Sorry (4)  |  Government (85)  |  Measure (70)  |  Often (69)  |  Patriotism (6)  |  Personally (4)  |  Sorry (16)  |  Vicious (2)

Space travel is at the frontier of my profession. It is going to be accomplished and I want to be in on it. There is also an element of simple duty involved. I am convinced that I have something to give this project.
— John Glenn, Jr.
As he wrote in an article for Life (14 Sep 1959), 38.
Science quotes on:  |  Accomplishment (57)  |  Convince (17)  |  Duty (51)  |  Element (129)  |  Frontier (16)  |  Give (117)  |  Involve (27)  |  Profession (54)  |  Project (22)  |  Simple (111)  |  Space Travel (13)  |  Want (120)

The attempt of the engineers and the doctors who have worked on the design of the capsule interior has been to give the impression, to create the fact, of roominess in a confined space.
— John Glenn, Jr.
Describing the Mercury capsule in Life (14 Sep 1959), 38.
Science quotes on:  |  Attempt (94)  |  Capsule (6)  |  Confined (3)  |  Create (98)  |  Design (92)  |  Doctor (100)  |  Engineer (72)  |  Fact (609)  |  Impression (51)  |  Interior (13)  |  Space (154)

The most important thing we can do is inspire young minds and to advance the kind of science, math and technology education that will help youngsters take us to the next phase of space travel.
— John Glenn, Jr.
As summarized on a CNN web page - without quotation marks - from a statement by Glenn about the fourth National Space Day (4 May 2000). 'All systems go for National Space Day' on CNN website.
Science quotes on:  |  Advance (123)  |  Education (280)  |  Help (68)  |  Important (124)  |  Inspire (35)  |  Mathematics (587)  |  Mind (544)  |  Phase (14)  |  Science (1699)  |  Space Travel (13)  |  Technology (199)  |  Young (72)  |  Youth (57)

There is still no cure for the common birthday.
— John Glenn, Jr.
Announcing his retirement from the Senate, as recorded in U.S. Government Printing Office, Tributes Delivered in Congress: John Glenn (1998), 53.
Science quotes on:  |  Birthday (3)  |  Common (92)  |  Cure (88)

There was some doubt whether the heat shield had been damaged … This could have been a bad day all the way around if this had been the case.
— John Glenn, Jr.
From post-flight news conference at Cape Canaveral (24 Feb 1962). 'Transcript of Glenn's News Conference Relating His Experiences on Orbital Flight', New York Times (24 Feb 1962), 14.
Science quotes on:  |  Bad (78)  |  Damage (18)  |  Day (38)  |  Doubt (121)  |  Heat (90)  |  Shield (4)

This is Friendship 7. Can see clear back; a big cloud pattern way back across towards the Cape. Beautiful sight.
— John Glenn, Jr.
From the transcript of in-flight communications, 5 min 35 sec after launch, about his view through the porthole.
Science quotes on:  |  Back (55)  |  Beautiful (81)  |  Big (33)  |  Clear (52)  |  Cloud (44)  |  Friendship 7 (3)  |  Pattern (56)  |  See (197)  |  Sight (25)  |  Toward (29)

This [disaster] is a day we have managed to avoid for a quarter of a century. We’ve talked about it before and speculated about it, and it finally has occurred. We hoped we could push this day back forever.
— John Glenn, Jr.
Comment on the explosion of Space Shuttle Challenger and the loss of the lives of all seven crew. Reported in New York Times (29 Jan 1986), A7.
Science quotes on:  |  Disaster (36)  |  Exploration (93)  |  Space Shuttle (8)

To me, it [the 1962 space flight of Friendship 7] is not something that happened a long time ago. It seems like a couple of days ago, really. It’s a rare day I don’t think about it, relive it in my mind. I can remember every switch I flipped, every move I made, every word I spoke and every word spoken to me. Clear as a bell.
— John Glenn, Jr.
As reported by Howard Wilkinson in 'John Glenn Had the Stuff U.S. Heroes are Made of', The Cincinnati Enquirer (20 Feb 2002).
Science quotes on:  |  Friendship 7 (3)  |  Mind (544)  |  Move (58)  |  Remember (53)  |  Space Flight (21)  |  Switch (7)  |  Think (205)  |  Word (221)

To me, there is no greater calling. If I can inspire young people to dedicate themselves to the good of mankind, I’ve accomplished something.
— John Glenn, Jr.
As quoted by Howard Wilkinson in 'John Glenn Had the Stuff U.S. Heroes are Made of', The Cincinnati Enquirer (20 Feb 2002), explaining his pride and interest in helping the goals of the John H. Glenn Institute for Public Service and Public Policy, at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.
Science quotes on:  |  Accomplishment (57)  |  Calling (3)  |  Dedicate (9)  |  Good (228)  |  Inspire (35)  |  Mankind (196)  |  Young (72)

We are placed here with certain talents and capabilities. It is up to each of us to use those talents and capabilities as best you can. If you do that, I think there is a power greater than any of us that will place the opportunities in our way, and if we use our talents properly, we will be living the kind of life we should live.
— John Glenn, Jr.
At NASA press conference (9 Apr 1959) to introduce the Mercury 7 astronauts. As quoted in Joseph N. Bell, Seven Into Space: The Story of the Mercury Astronauts (1960), 69.
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Zero-g and I feel fine. Capsule is turning around. … Oh, that view is tremendous!
— John Glenn, Jr.
From the transcript of in-flight communications, 5 min 12 sec after launch, about his view through the porthole.
Science quotes on:  |  Capsule (6)  |  Tremendous (11)  |  View (115)

[In childhood, to overcome fear, the] need took me back again and again to a sycamore tree rising from the earth at the edge of a ravine. It was a big, old tree that had grown out over the ravine, so that when you climbed it, you looked straight down fifty feet or more. Every time I climbed that tree, I forced myself to climb to the last possible safe limb and then look down. Every time I did it, I told myself I’d never do it again. But I kept going back because it scared me and I had to know I could overcome that.
— John Glenn, Jr.
In John Glenn and Nick Taylor, John Glenn: A Memoir (2000), 16.
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[The center must be more than just] old junk in a box. [It must be a] living dynamic thing to attract people to public service at all levels.
— John Glenn, Jr.
At a meeting (21 Apr 1997) describing his vision to university officials for the John Glenn Institute of Public Service and Public Policy Institute. As quoted on the Ohio State University website.
Science quotes on:  |  Attract (15)  |  Dynamic (11)  |  Institute (7)  |  Junk (4)  |  Public Service (3)

Quotes by others about John Glenn, Jr. (3)

I fully expect that NASA will send me back to the Moon as they treated Senator [John] Glenn, and if they don't do otherwise, why, then I'll have to do it myself.
About looking forward to the day he turned 77.
Interview with Associated Press, as quoted in Peter Bond, 'Obituary: Charles Conrad Jnr', The Independent (10 Jul 1999).
Science quotes on:  |  Expectation (46)  |  Moon (132)  |  Old Age (18)  |  Space Flight (21)

Dogbert: So, Since Columbus is dead, you have no evidence that the earth is round.
Dilbert: Look. You can Ask Senator John Glenn. He orbited the earth when he was an astronaut.
Dogbert: So, your theory depends on the honesty of politicians.
Dilbert: Yes... no, wait...
Dilbert comic strip (10 Oct 1989).
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I didn’t really decide that I wanted to be an astronaut for sure until the end of college. But even in elementary school and junior high, I was very interested in space and in the space program. I had both male and female heroes. One was a high school science teacher who was very important in encouraging me to pursue science. Because I was a tennis player, Billie Jean King was a hero of mine. And the early astronauts, John Glenn and Neil Armstrong, were heroes of mine as well.
Interview conducted on Scholastic website (20 Nov 1998).
Science quotes on:  |  Neil Armstrong (9)  |  Astronaut (22)  |  College (27)  |  Decide (25)  |  Encourage (16)  |  Female (20)  |  Hero (29)  |  Important (124)  |  Interest (170)  |  Junior High (3)  |  Male (24)  |  Program (32)  |  Space (154)  |  Teacher (90)  |  Tennis (6)

See also:
  • 18 Jul - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Glenn's birth.
  • John Glenn: A Memoir, by John Glenn. - book suggestion.
  • Booklist for John Glenn.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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