As John Glenn gets ready to blast off into space, it's politics as usual back on Earth, where primary voters in Ohio, Indiana and North Carolina choose candidates today for three Senate seats and one governorship.
Glenn, in his fourth term, is one of five senators not seeking re-election. The 76-year-old Ohio Democrat will, if all goes well, be orbiting the globe on the shuttle Discovery on Election Day in November.
Dan Coats, an Indiana Republican, is also quitting, saying that at age 54, he wants to leave while he's still "young enough to resume a career outside government."
At 70, North Carolina Sen. Lauch Faircloth faces token opposition in the GOP primary. The Democratic front-runner is lawyer John Edwards.
The two open seats seem likely to wind up in the hands of the opposing party. In Ohio, Republican Gov. George Voinovich has only token primary opposition and is favored in November over the Democratic nominee, Mary O. Boyle, a former Cuyahoga County commissioner.
In Indiana, former Gov. Evan Bayh is the unopposed Democratic nominee, and his popularity and fund-raising advantage will make it an uphill struggle for the GOP nominee. The three contenders are Fort Wayne Mayor Paul Helmke and lawyers John Price and Peter Rusthoven.
In the Ohio governor's race, the nominees are unopposed: Democrat Lee Fisher, former state attorney general, will face Republican Secretary of State Bob Taft, the latest in a long line of Tafts and grandson of the president.