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. (Read more John Glenn stories.)