John Glenn was the first American to orbit Earth

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Of course 2016 wasn’t going to relent – former astronaut and United States Senator John Glenn has passed away. One of the last remaining figures from America’s early forays into space, Glenn is best known as the first American to orbit the Earth, doing so three times.

More specifically, John Glenn was the last living member of the “Mercury Seven,” a group of military test pilots selected in 1959 by NASA to become America’s first astronauts. A lifelong pilot who had seen action in World War II and the Korean War, Glenn was recognized with five Distinguished Flying Crosses and eighteen clusters, but his most notable flight came on February 20th, 1962. On that fateful day, Glenn flew the Friendship 7 spacecraft mission, which made him the first American to orbit the Earth, and the fifth person in space.

For his time spent as one of NASA’s first astronauts, Glenn was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor on October 1st, 1978, alongside Apollo 11 crewmembers Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, and was inducted into the US Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1990. After stepping down from NASA in 1964, Glenn ran for a seat in the US Senate from Ohio. A candidate for the Democratic Party, Glenn won the seat in 1974, and held the position until January of 1999.

During Glenn’s time in office, he made a return to space in 1998, to prove to the world that one’s increase in age is not dictated by the construct of mundane daily activities. The endeavor was initially bemoaned, as many believed it to be far too perilous for a man of Glenn’s age, but he would not be denied, and so he returned to space 36-years following his first foray out of Earth’s atmosphere.

After Glenn exited public office,  he was awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and elected to the Academy of Arts and Sciences. Glenn died at his home in Columbus, Ohio at the age of 95.

Last modified: December 9, 2016