Answer: Edward Kennedy, Ralph Nader, and Dick Lugar
This week marks 50 years since John Glenn became the first American astronaut to orbit the earth. Glenn is in the Meet the Press record books as well; the 39-year timespan between his first and last appearances on the program is one of the longest in Meet the Press history. There are only three politicians ahead of him: Edward Kennedy, Ralph Nader, and Dick Lugar.
John Glenn first appeared on Meet the Press in April of 1963, the year after that historic orbit around earth on the Friendship 7 space flight. Glenn was at the time a key part of the country’s project to get a man on the moon by the end of the decade, which President John F. Kennedy had famously introduced two years before. The probability of reaching the moon seemed anything but certain in 1963, and MTP panelist Lawrence Spivak asked: “You have risked your life, and you have devoted your energy and your time in this race to get to the moon. Are you I yourself convinced beyond question that it is worth doing?” Glenn replied that he was, and that reaching the moon would be worthwhile for the country’s future. The panel also quizzed Glenn, who would go on to become a Senator for Ohio, about the rumors in Washington of his plans for a future political career, including a run for Vice President.
In a lighter moment, journalist William Baggs noted that “like most of us – except Mr. Spivak,” the astronauts from the Friendship 7 orbit were getting older. Glenn responded that age should not prevent anyone from going to space “as long as we stay in good shape and can keep qualified.” Thirty nine years later, in his most recent Meet the Press appearance in 2003, Glenn held to that philosophy: the 81-year old told Tim Russert that if he were asked to go on another shuttle trip, “I’d be down there tomorrow morning.”
You can watch video from John Glenn’s first and last Meet the Press programs in the clip below.
Every Monday, Betsy Fischer - the Executive Producer of Meet the Press - poses a trivia question on Twitter about the 63 years of history making moments and guests on Meet The Press. Check back every Tuesday for answers and video clips!