Originally created 10/24/98

For Annie Glenn, it's easier second time around



WASHINGTON -- The last time John Glenn prepared to go into space, Annie Glenn lost 12 pounds to worry.

"Now I'm not losing, I'm adding," jokes the wife of America's soon-to-be oldest man in space.

When her 77-year-old husband lifts off next week as part of the crew of Space Shuttle Discovery, "I'm going to be scared, but not like I was before," said Mrs. Glenn in a telephone interview Friday from Houston. "There's no comparison."

Glenn's first -- and only -- trip to space was in 1962, when he orbited the Earth and helped America catch the Soviet Union in the space race.

That was a tense day for all involved.

First, there were doubts about whether Friendship 7 would get off the ground -- Glenn had suited up, waited and seen the mission postponed 10 times.

Then there were worries about the Atlas rocket that would carry his Mercury capsule heavenward.

"I had watched two Atlases explode," Mrs. Glenn said. "Now there have been so many launches, with so much success there's just no comparison."

That's Glenn's attitude, too. In a recent interview, he said his wife was "less afraid than back in Mercury days, and with good reason -- we didn't have any track record, didn't know exactly what we were doing back then."

"We have a long track record now and only one failure -- the Challenger accident," said Glenn, referring to the 1986 explosion that killed seven shuttle astronauts.

Since the program's infancy, NASA has become more family-friendly, too, Mrs. Glenn said.

"Back then, the families weren't even allowed on the Cape," she said. "When I came down here at Easter time ... for two weeks, Curt Brown, the commander, asked if I wanted to attend (training) classes with them."

Payload specialist Glenn went into preflight quarantine Thursday night. Mrs. Glenn and their grown children planned to follow him to Cape Canaveral on Monday, remain there until launch next Thursday, and then return to Texas, where they've been told they're welcome any time at Johnson Space Center.

"I want to be close to the control center because we can go there as often as we want to," she said.

NASA is also lending the Glenn family a laptop computer and allowing them to send 45 lines of e-mail to Discovery each of the nine days the shuttle is in space.

Since she's been through it before, Mrs. Glenn knows when the tension is going to be at its peak.

"I think the jitters are going to come during launch time and landing," she said.

And though initially opposed to Glenn's returning to space, Mrs. Glenn, 78, has come around and appreciates what it's meant to her husband.

"He's really excited," she said. "He's like a kid ... He looks younger every day."