Former Astronaut John Glenn in Car Accident

I was somewhat concerned upon reading the Yahoo! News headline “Former astronaut Glenn in car accident.” Thankfully, all concerned appear fine.

Former senator and astronaut John Glenn and his wife were taken to a hospital with minor injures after being involved in a car accident, police said. Glenn, 85, and his wife, Annie, 86, were in fair condition early Saturday morning at Grant Medical Center, a nursing supervisor said.

The driver of the other car, Amy Myers of suburban New Albany, said she was driving east late Friday night when Glenn, who was headed west, tried to turn left onto a highway ramp. Myers, who was not injured, said her car hit the front of his. Glenn was “very sincerely sorry,” Myers said.

Glenn, who served in the Senate from 1974 to 1998, first made headlines in 1962, when he piloted the first manned orbital mission of the United States. He went back into space in 1998, at the age of 77.

To the extent this story gains any traction, it’ll likely be a rehash of the “How old do you need to be to get your driver’s license taken away” meme. And that’s a fair enough question to ask in cases like these.

What’s more interesting to me, though, is that Glenn is still mostly identified as a “former astronaut,” not as a 24 year veteran of the Senate and two time presidential candidate. I guess being the first American in space to orbit the earth trumps politics.

Indeed, Ulysses Grant and Dwight Eisenhower are better remembered for their military exploits than being two term presidents and Jesse Ventura is more known as a wrestler than as a former governor. Likely, the same will be true of Arnold Schwarzenegger. The question in his case is whether he’s more famously a multiple Mr. Olympia winner or an action movie star.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    Alan Shepherd was the first American in space, but did not complete a full orbit. Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth.

  2. Len says:

    Piloting a spacecraft requires smarts. Being a Senator, not so much.

  3. Kent G. Budge says:

    Eisenhower was an okay president, but Grant was a disaster. In my opinion, Glenn falls somewhere in between. So it’s natural that he would be remembered for a fairly unambiguous record as astronaut rather than a mixed record as politician.

    It’s hard to know what else he could have done with the rest of his life to match his accomplishments in the space program. I will have a more informed opinion on that after I accomplish something.

  4. don surber says:

    Col. Glenn can drive a car till he’s 150 years old. Maybe older

  5. floyd says:

    james; thanks for the refreshing notion that things are as they should be!