“`John Glenn’s 1962 flight as the first United States astronaut to orbit the Earth made him an all-American hero, and propelled him to a long career in the United States Senate. He was the final survivor of the original Mercury 7 astronauts. His political career enabled him to return to space in the shuttle Discovery at age 77 in 1998; a cosmic victory lap, and he turned it into a teachable moment about growing old. He holds the record for the oldest person in space. Glenn was a uniquely American space hero: A combat veteran with nerves of steel; public schools, a space center, and the Columbus airport named after him.
“`John Herschel Glenn Jr. (above) had two major career paths that often intersected – flying and politics – and he soared in both. He was a fighter pilot in World War II and Korea, who got his plane riddled with bullets, and flew with baseball great Ted Williams a during 149 combat missions. And as a test pilot, he broke aviation records, and set the transcontinental speed record. The telegenic Marine even won $25,000 on the game show Name That Tune. And, that was before April 6th, 1959, when his life changed by being chosen as one of the Mercury 7 astronauts.
“`After two suborbital flights by Alan Shepard Jr. and Gus Grissom, Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. At the age of 40, Glenn started his 4 hours, 55 minutes, and 23 seconds in space. His ride in the cramped Friendship 7 capsule had its own scary moments, however. Sensors showed his heat shield was loose after three orbits, and Mission Control worried he might burn up during re-entry as temperatures reached 3,000 degrees. But the heat shield held. Glenn joked that the only astronaut he was envious of was fellow Ohioan: Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.
“`That mission also introduced Glenn to politics. He addressed a joint session of Congress, and dined at the White House. He became friends with President John F. Kennedy, and an ally and friend of his brother Robert. They urged him to enter politics. Glenn later served in the Senate from Ohio. He spent 24 years in the Senate, representing Ohio longer than any other senator in the state’s history. He became a leading expert on nuclear weaponry, and the most dogged advocate of nonproliferation. The senator was the leading supporter of the B-1 Bomber. As a chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, he turned a microscope on waste and fraud in the federal bureaucracy. John announced his retirement in 1997, 35 years to the day after he became the first American in orbit. A rare setback was a failed 1984 run for the Democratic presidential nomination.
“`Shortly before he ran for the 1984 Democratic presidential nomination, a new generation was introduced to astronaut Glenn with the motion picture adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s book The Right Stuff. He was portrayed as the straight arrow amid a group of hard-partying astronauts. Glenn memorably guest-starred in an episode of Frasier.
“`He spent his later years promoting the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at Ohio State University, which also houses an archive of his private papers and photographs. Glenn received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978, and was inducted into the U.S Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1990. And, he was married to his bride, Annie, for 70 years.
“`The man with the right stuff… John Glenn was 95.
Until next time> “never forget”