Astronaut, Marine Colonel and former U.S. Senator from Ohio, John Glenn, died on Thursday at age 95.
Glenn was born in 1921 in Cambridge, Ohio and studied engineering at Muskingum College while earning a private pilot’s license. World War II interrupted his studies and Glenn soon found himself flying F4U Corsairs in the Pacific as a Marine aviator.
Remaining in the military, he flew F9F Panthers with the famed “Tomcats” of VMF-311 in Korea as well as F-86 Sabres while on loan to the Air Force. He followed this up with service as a test pilot, setting at the time a transcontinental speed record, making it from New York to California in just under three and a half hours.
In all he completed nearly 150 combat missions between the two conflicts, shot down three enemy MiGs, and was a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross no less than six times for his military service.
Glenn was then chosen to be one of the first seven astronauts in NASA’s Mercury program, immortalized in Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book, “The Right Stuff,” of which actor Ed Harris played him in the film of the same name.
Glenn rocketed to space aboard the tiny Friendship 7 capsule on February 20, 1962, the third American in space and the first to orbit the planet–which he did three times in his nearly five hour flight. He retired from NASA in 1964 and the Marines the next year as a full colonel, then spent 25 years representing his state in Washington.
Retiring from the Senate in 1999, he once again suited up for NASA one last time as a payload specialist on a nine-day mission on the Space Shuttle Discovery– at age 77, the oldest person to go into space.
“Senator Glenn’s legacy is one of risk and accomplishment, of history created and duty to country carried out under great pressure with the whole world watching,” notes NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in the above video.
“The entire NASA Family will be forever grateful for his outstanding service, commitment and friendship,” said Bolden. “Personally, I shall miss him greatly. As a fellow Marine and aviator, he was a mentor, role model and, most importantly, a dear friend. My prayers go out to his lovely and devoted wife, Annie, and the entire Glenn family at this time of their great loss.”
According to the Columbus Dispatch, Glenn’s body will lie in state for a day at the Ohio Statehouse and he will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.