Remembering John Glenn

Image Credit: NASA

December 13, 2016 – Former astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn died Thursday, December 8, 2016, at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. He was 95 years old.

Glenn, who served four terms as a U.S. senator from Ohio, was one of NASA’s original seven Mercury astronauts.

Glenn will always be remembered as the first American to orbit the Earth. His flight on Friendship 7 on February 20, 1962, showed the world that America was a serious contender in the space race with the Soviet Union. It also made Glenn an instant hero.

Glenn climbs into his Friendship 7 capsule for his historic flight on Feb. 20, 1962. Image Credit: NASA

Being a national hero meant that NASA was reluctant to send Glenn back into space. Glenn resigned as an astronaut on January 16, 1964 and retired from the Marine Corps on January 1, 1965, with the rank of Colonel.

Glenn became an executive with Royal Crown International, but took an active part in Ohio politics and environmental protection efforts. He won a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1974, carrying all 88 counties of Ohio. He was re-elected in 1980 with the largest margin in Ohio history.

Ohio returned him to the Senate for a third term in 1986, again with a substantial majority. In 1992 he was elected again, becoming the first popularly elected senator from his state to win four consecutive terms.

During his last term he was the ranking member of both the Governmental Affairs Committee and the Subcommittee on Air/Land Forces in the Senate Armed Services Committee. He also served on the Select Committee on Intelligence and the Special Committee on Aging.

He was considered one of the Senate’s leading experts on technical and scientific matters, and won wide respect for his work to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction. He took pride in using his position on the Governmental Affairs Committee to root out waste in government and to clean up the nation’s nuclear materials production plants.

In 1998, Glenn became the oldest person to go into space. His nine-day mission as a Payload Specialist on space shuttle Discovery’s STS-95 launched on October 29, 1998, when Glenn was 77 years old. On Discovery, he participated in a series of tests on the aging process. In honor of his accomplishments in space, NASA’s facility in Cleveland, Ohio, was renamed the John H. Glenn Research Center.

Glenn received many honors during his life, including six Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Air Medal with 15 clusters and two stars for his service during World War II and the Korean Conflict, the Marine Corps’ Astronaut Medal, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, the AIAA Haley Space Flight Award, the AIAA Foundation Award for Excellence; the Robert J. Collier Trophy, the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 1978 he was named an AIAA Honorary Member, a distinction bestowed by the Board of Directors on fewer than 20 people in Institute history. The U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame inducted him in 1990.