It was startling to hear the news of John Glenn's passing on Dec. 8, 2016. John Glenn, the astronaut, the U.S. senator and distinguished veteran. He was in the very beginning of mankind's venture into outer space, and yet in later years was back in space laying the foundation for knowledge future space voyagers will need to have.
We do not need to discuss space travel to enjoy the stars. For thousands of years before anyone was an astronaut, people looked up, reached their hand heaven-ward at the canopy of stars and always found them well beyond their grasp. Still they looked.
Seemingly infinitely far, the stars remained a mystery, a dream, yet not so distant that they could not be seen, could not be imagined, let along probed. Starting with our eyes alone tracing the constellations, and then training our telescopes only to find even more stars, the Universe has always been vast.
There were dreamers who boldly imagined one day being able to step off the safety of our sweet haven, the planet Earth, and explore what is beyond. It took thousands of years from our vantage point to begin to understand our home as a round planet orbiting the Sun -- one of the stars, which in turn is one of billions in our galactic home the Milky Way.
John Glenn was among the seven NASA Mercury astronauts who took those first bold steps. In February 1962 he became the first American to orbit the Earth.
Space exploration has inspired generations to look up. America's space program has catapulted the hobby of astronomy, the study of the stars and planets and all that makes up the Universe. Space flight has sparked some to become professional astronomers. A wide span of knowledge has infused us at home, from engineering and medicine to arts and manufacturing to electronics. Our lives have been linked to mankind's bold steps to the stars in ways most take for granted and never stop to realize.
John Glenn was a pioneer. For many, he and his compatriots have been our heroes.
I was only 6 when Glenn entered space Feb. 20, 1962 aboard Friendship 7, yet I have cherished the memory of it, as I sat and watched the coverage on that black and white TV set.
How inspiring it was when Glenn returned to orbit on a Space Shuttle in 1998, at the age of 77. Studying the effects of space flight on the aging process, this too could benefit mankind at home, and in decades hence as space voyages become longer.
Glenn was also such a good role model, having lived a life of devotion and service, and married to his beloved Annie for over 70 years. He remained the "Right Stuff" through his life of 95 years. He kept his focus.
Godspeed, John Glenn. Thank you for helping us to look up and dream.
Last quarter Moon is on Dec. 20. Winter Solstice is the next day at 5:44 a.m. EST.
Keep looking up.
-- Peter Becker is Managing Editor at The News Eagle in Hawley, PA. Notes are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please mention in what newspaper or web site you read this column.