John Glenn, some have argued is the first space tourist,
while others point to Dennis Tito. John Glenn was in fact,
a non-paying space tourist and the oldest one at that, which
some have criticized was one more or a far-fetched political
junket, while Dennis Tito is the first paying space tourist.
John Glenn, who was the first American to orbit the earth,
did so three times on the Friendship 7 Mercury capsule on
February 20, 1962. The mission lasted for just short of 5
hours and Glenn was strapped to his seat the entire time,
never experiencing weightlessness.
Thirty-five years later, on October 29, 1998 aboard the Space
Shuttle Discovery, John Glenn became the oldest person to
go into space at the age of 77-years-old. While some called
this the most elaborate and expensive political junket ever,
after the STS-95 mission Glenn and the crew came home to a
ticker tape parade.
The mission lasted for 9-days and this time around John Glenn
did experience weightlessness in space. NASA scientists have
stated that Glenn's space trip has offered them valuable insight
into the impact on space flight on the same person in two
different points in time.
Most of the experiments that John Glenn was involved in on
the STS-95 mission involved the affects of spaceflight on
the elderly. NASA has noted that there are many physiological
similarities between the aging process and spaceflight such
as issues involving balance and equilibrium, muscle loss and
sleep disturbance problems.
Glenn has jokingly stated that NASA officials would not,
however, let him dawn a spacesuit and take a spacewalk for
fear that at his age he may just "wander off". Though
this kind of wandering may one day be seen as "space
tourists being space tourists", in 1998 it would have
been a public relations nightmare.
Experiments were conducted in the SPACEHAB module in the
forward part of the shuttle. The module provided a pressurized
environment to conduct such experiments as investigating the
sun's corona and solar winds, fiber optic line tests and International
Extreme Ultraviolet Hitchhiker (IEH) payload tests.
Also on Glenn's flight, Pedro Duque became the first Spanish
astronaut in space. Glenn was later critical of Dennis Tito's
trip to space, which cost the former JPL scientist and investment
management multimillionaire a cool $20 million for the privilege.