Space pioneer and former US senator John Glenn died today at the age of 95, after a brief stay in hospital. One of the original Mercury Seven astronauts, Glenn was America's first man to orbit the Earth on February 20, 1962 aboard the Mercury-Atlas Friendship Seven space capsule. He later went on to serve in the United States Senate for 25 years and became the world's oldest astronaut in 1998 when he returned to space as a passenger/specialist on STS-95 Discovery.
John Glenn was born in Cambridge, Ohio on July 18, 1921. He joined the US Naval Aviation Cadet program in 1942 and was commissioned in the US Marine Corp in 1943. He served in World War II and Korea, before transferring to the Fighter Design Branch of the Navy Bureau of Aeronautic as a test pilot.
In 1959, Glenn was selected by NASA as one of the first seven US astronauts, dubbed the Mercury Seven. His 1962 flight, which was the second manned Mercury mission after Alan Shepard's suborbital mission, lasted four hours, 55 minutes and 23 seconds at an altitude of 100 mi (169 km) before splashing down.
He remained a member of the Marine Corps during his astronaut days, rising to the rank of Colonel before retiring from NASA and the service in 1964. He then entered politics as a Democrat and was elected to the Senate.
In 1998, at the age of 77, Glenn returned to space as a payload specialist and "guinea pig" conducting geriatric studies on a nine-day Space Shuttle mission. During his flight, a viral joke passed through emails urging everyone to secretly put on an ape mask when Glenn returned.
According to the BBC, Glenn passed away in a hospital in his home town surrounded by his children and wife of 73 years. He will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Want a cleaner, faster loading and ad free reading experience?
Try New Atlas Plus. Learn more