Former Astronaut, Senator and Hero, John Glenn, Dies at 95

The first American to orbit our planet has passed away.  John Glenn passed away at the age of 95 at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio on December 8th, 2016.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, Glenn’s body will lie in state at the Ohio Statehouse for a day. There will be a public memorial service held at Ohio State University’s Mershon Auditorium. Glenn is to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in a private service.

Glenn is survived by his wife, Annie, of 73 years. The couple were childhood sweethearts who married in 1943. The couple have two children, John David and Carolyn Ann. The also have two grandchildren.

John Glenn was born in Cambridge, Ohio on July 18, 1921.  He graduated from New Concord High School in 1939. Glen when to college and studied Engineering at Muskingum College.

While at Muskingum, Glenn earned a private pilot license for credit in a physics course and, perhaps, that is where his long career in flight began. Glenn did not complete his senior year in residence or the required proficiency exam necessary to obtain a degree. The school would later grant Glenn his degree after his Mercury space flight in 1962.

He served in the U.S. Marines as a pilot and flew missions during World War II and in Korea.  According to his official NASA profile, “Glenn entered the Naval Aviation Cadet Program in March 1942. He graduated and was commissioned in the Marine Corps in 1943. After advanced training, he joined Marine Fighter Squadron 155 and spent a year flying F-4U fighters in the Marshall Islands. He flew 59 combat missions during World War II.”

John Glenn via NASA
John Glenn – Image via NASA

John Glenn was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross six times and earned the Air Medal with 18 Clusters for his service during World War II and Korea.

After the war in Korea, Glenn became a test pilot after graduating the U.S. Naval Test Pilot school in 1954.

Glenn completed the first supersonic transcontinental flight on July 16, 1957, putting him in the record books.

Glenn would join NASA in 1959 and eventually be known as one of the most famous astronauts in history as one of the original members of the Mercury-Atlas mission team and for being the first American man to orbit the Earth in Friendship 7 on Feb. 20, 1962.

Friendship 7 suffered multiple malfunctions, which Glenn overcame and he returned to Earth a hero. On February 23, 1962, President Kennedy awarded Glenn with the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. Glenn would resign from NASA on January 16, 1964 and would retire from the Marines in 1965.

Nearly immediately after leaving NASA, he announced he intended to run for the U.S. Senate. While he was forced to withdraw from his first attempt at running for Senate, he would later serve four terms.  Glenn ran as a Democrat.

In 1984, a 3 hour and 13 minute film would be made about the Mercury 7 astronauts called The Right Stuff. The film chronicled the birth of the modern space program and historical moments such as Chuck Yaeger breaking the sound barrier. The film would win four Academy Awards.

He would return to space one more time, in 1998, on the STS-95 Discovery shuttle flight. That flight earned him another first, as it made him the oldest man to go into space. Glenn was 77 at the time and served as the mission’s payload specialist.

On Tuesday, May 29, 2012, Glenn was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.  His memory will live on in history books and in the memories of every American.

Godspeed, John Glenn.

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