Glenn still has the right stuff

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It looks as if a US Senator from Ohio who is still famous for more than his political career may soon be proving that at 76 years of age it is still possible to have the right stuff.

While there was still no formal confirmation last night, the rumour was out that Nasa was getting ready to announce today that it is to send John Glenn into space on board a shuttle flight in October.

It would not, of course, be Senator Glenn's first encounter with the wider universe. He was one of the first US astronauts to take flight with the Mercury orbiter space programme - no less than 36 years ago.

It seems Nasa has for some time been considering a project to study the affect of weightlessness on the ageing process in the human body. And to do that, they needed to find someone old, fit and preferably with experience.

Glenn, who is said to be, as it were, over the moon about the idea, was the subject of Tom Wolfe's best-selling novel The Right Stuff. It was in February 1962 when he captured the imagination of America with his five-hour, three-orbit flight aboard Friendship 7.