First US Astronaut to Orbit Earth Dead at 95

John Glenn had a remarkable life
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 8, 2016 3:32 PM CST
Astronaut John Glenn Dead at 95
FILE - In this Sunday, Nov. 1, 1998 image made from video, astronaut John Glenn, left, retrieves a paper airplane for pilot Steven Lindsey, foreground right, in the space shuttle Discovery's middeck. Astronaut Stephen Robinson, left, and Japanese astronaut Chiaki Mukai look over paper work in the background....   (Uncredited)

John Glenn, whose 1962 flight as the first US astronaut to orbit the Earth made him an all-American hero and propelled him to a long career in the US Senate, died Thursday, the AP reports. The last survivor of the original Mercury 7 astronauts was 95. Glenn died at the James Cancer Hospital in Columbus, where he was hospitalized for more than a week, said Hank Wilson, communications director for the John Glenn School of Public Affairs. Glenn had two major career paths that often intersected: flying and politics, and he soared in both of them. Before he gained fame orbiting the world, he was a fighter pilot in two wars, and as a test pilot, he set a transcontinental speed record. He later served 24 years in the Senate from Ohio. A rare setback was a failed 1984 run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

His long political career enabled him to return to space in the shuttle Discovery at age 77 in 1998, a cosmic victory lap that he relished and turned into a teachable moment about growing old. He holds the record for the oldest person in space. More than anything, Glenn was the ultimate and uniquely American space hero: a combat veteran with an easy smile, a strong marriage of 70 years, and nerves of steel. Schools, a space center, and the Columbus, Ohio, airport were named after him. So were children. The green-eyed, telegenic Marine even won $25,000 on the game show Name That Tune with a 10-year-old partner. And that was before April 6, 1959, when his life changed by being selected as one of the Mercury 7 astronauts and instantly started attracting more than his share of the spotlight. Click for much more on his remarkable life. (More John Glenn stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.