Skip to Main Content

Visiting Blue Origin, Through the Eyes of Glenn’s Son

News Type Public Address

Pictured Above

At the Road to Space Sign with Vehicle Access Tower in the background, Jarrett Jones, Senior VP for Blue Origin’s New Glenn (third from right), poses with Glenn College guests (from left to right) Charles Bolden Jr., Elaine McLoughlin-Overholt, Stephanie Mohr, Patti Steinour, Steve Steinour, Jude Samuel, Louis Beck, Trevor Brown, John Horack, Karen Fagerstrom, David Glenn, Michael Coleman and Guy Worley.

By John David Glenn, son of Sen. John Glenn

Shortly before he died, my father learned that Jeff Bezos had named Blue Origins planned, reusable, orbital rocket after him — calling it the New Glenn. He felt truly honored. As he wrote to Bezos, he felt the time would eventually come when average people, not just astronauts and other highly trained people, would ride rockets into space in a way similar to how we fly on airliners today. He thought that Bezos was helping to make that vision come true. 

When the chance came to go with a group from the John Glenn College of Public Affairs to visit the Blue Origin facilities on Cape Canaveral this last month to take a look at how the New Glenn project was coming along, my wife and I immediately agreed to go. It was a fascinating visit. In the photo above, Blue Origin and Glenn College representatives and friends stand at the Road to Space sign at the New Glenn launch site, Launch Complex 36 (LC-36) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

Scott Henderson, vice president, test and flight operations for Blue Origin, shares the view from the New Glenn launch access tower with David Glenn.

First we were given an introductory presentation. New Glenn is a hugely complex effort that has come together in less than 10 years with a focus on safety, reliability and reusability — and a guiding motto of gradatim ferociter, which is Latin for step by step, ferociously.  

Then we were shown about by several of the senior project managers who knew every detail of the project. We were taken to Launch Complex 36 from where it will be launched. We rode an elevator to the top of the 500-foot-tall tower that sits alongside the rocket at the launch pad. From there the view of the whole Cape region is simply breathtaking. So was the sense of height! You can see all the other launch pads off in the distance including Launch Complex 14 from which my father was launched during Project Mercury. You could also see a Falcon 9 rocket sitting on its launch pad from where it was launched the day after our tour. A thoughtful touch was to find a red Ohio State flag flapping in the breeze from one of the girders as we got off the elevator at the top of the tower! 

An amazing thing to learn at the launch pad was that the sound waves from the rocket motors are so powerful that they can actually damage the rocket, its payload and the crew. To prevent that, massive amounts of water from a nearby water tower run underneath the rocket exhaust to muffle the sound. So, the white clouds around the rocket as it lifts off are actually steam. 

Later we went to the huge manufacturing building where the New Glenn is actually being constructed and assembled. It was a stunning state-of-the-art facility. A bit like a look into the future. But it was clearly grounded in present times — pictures of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were painted on some of the machinery as identification aids. 

All in all, it was a totally memorable day — a fascinating tour put on by a group of people who struck us as very interesting and personable in their own right. My father, with his love of cutting-edge science and technology, would have been thrilled to be there. And he without doubt would have been thinking, How can I arrange my next flight back into space?! 

View more images from our visit to Blue Origin