George H. W. Bush celebrated his 80th birthday in June 2004 by leaping out of a plane twice at 13,000 feet. It was a repeat of the stunt he pulled when he turned 75, which was 55 years after he made his first parachute jump, during the Second World War, when his plane was shot down.
Anne Abernathy, or Grandma Luge is the oldest woman ever to compete in the Olympic Winter Games. Now 55, Abernathy, who represented the U. S. Virgin Islands at the Turin Games, has rocketed down an icy, perilous track at up to 80 mph hundreds of times.
John Glenn was the first American in orbit, in 1962; in 1998, when he was 77, Glenn boarded space shuttle Discovery in a voyage that helped rekindle attention to space travel.
Mike Melvill became the first civilian astronaut to steer through outer space at age 62. In 2004, he piloted SpaceShipOne to an altitude of 62 miles, snacking on floating M&Ms as he peered back down at Earth.
Sylvia Earle was knocked over by a wave when she was three and is now known as “Her Deepness” for having spent more than 6,000 hours underwater. At 72, the Oakland, CA, resident, National Geographic explorer-in-residence, and author of more than 125 publications holds the women’s depth record for solo diving—3,300 feet.
Sarah Tuff has written for the New York Times, National Geographic Adventure, and Skiing. This article was published in NRTA Live & Learn, Spring 2006.
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