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Carpenter told the crowd Saturday that he’s still waiting for his first shuttle ride, drawing a big laugh.

The Mercury 7 astronauts were immortalized in Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book about the space program, “The Right Stuff,” which was later made into a movie.

Although Wolfe suggested the nation will never see another hero of Glenn’s stature, Carpenter noted, “Maybe one day before too long the great hero John Glenn himself may be replaced by another national hero who represents the command of a Mars crew returned safely.”

John, thank you for your heroic effort and all of you for your heroic effort,” Carpenter told the Mercury old-timers. “But we stand here waiting to be outdone.”

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Online:

NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/