American war hero, the first American astronaut and later, the oldest astronaut to orbit the earth, John Glenn has died. He was 95. According to NBC News, the news of John Glenn’s passing was confirmed by a close family member. John, who also served as a U.S. senator from the state of Ohio for 25 years was hospitalized earlier this week with an unexplained condition. According to initial reports, John Glenn was surrounded by close family members and his wife of 73 years, Annie at the time of his death at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio.
Responding to the news of John Glenn’s death, Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich issued a statement that read as follows.
“John Glenn is, and always will be, Ohio’s ultimate hometown hero, and his passing today is an occasion for all of us to grieve. As we bow our heads and share our grief with his beloved wife, Annie, we must also turn to the skies, to salute his remarkable journeys and his long years of service to our state and nation. Though he soared deep into space and to the heights of Capitol Hill, his heart never strayed from his steadfast Ohio roots. Godspeed, John Glenn!”
Born John Herschel Glenn Jr. on July 18, 1921, as the son of John Herschel Glenn, Sr. and Teresa Glenn, John Glenn spent most of his childhood in New Concord, Ohio. After graduating out of school, he enrolled himself to study engineering at the Muskingum College. In 1941, he went on to earn a private pilot license for credit in a physics course. At around the same time, the World War II had started, and he made the tough decision to leave school and fight in the war. His tryst with military later helped him become a Marine pilot. A few years later, John Glenn also managed to set a speed record after he flew from Los Angeles to New York in less than 3.5 hours. However, there was more glory in store for Glenn, thanks to the U.S.’ budding space program.
In 1959 at the height of the cold war between the Soviet Union and the United States, there was an ongoing space race between the two superpowers. In the same year, NASA handpicked a group of astronauts that they planned to send to space on the Mercury Spacecraft. These seven individuals, who later became famous as the “Mercury Seven” included John Glenn. Other famous names in the list included Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Deke Slayton.
In 1961, the U.S. space program received a minor jolt when the Russians beat them and sent cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin into space — the first man ever to do so. In response, NASA sent Alan Shepard into space just 23 days later and earned the title of being the first American in space. Only a year later, John Glenn would go on to become the first American to orbit the earth on the “Friendship 7” spacecraft. Glenn made history after he completed three orbits around the earth – spending nearly five hours up there.
After his career at NASA ended, John Glenn entered politics and for over 25 years served as a senator from Ohio. He was, however, able to make a remarkable comeback in the year 1998 — incidentally, his final year as a U.S. senator when he was reborn as an astronaut and became the oldest man in space at age 77. He went to space aboard space shuttle Discovery along with six other astronauts. John Glenn made his last public appearance back in June, 2016, when the Port Columbus airport terminal was renamed the John Glenn Columbus International Airport in his honor.
According to initial reports, John Glenn’s body will lie in state at the Ohio Statehouse for a day. A public memorial service has also been scheduled at the Mershon Auditorium. John Glenn would be buried at the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington in a private service. The dates and times for the public events are yet to be announced.
[Featured Image by Jay LaPrete/File/AP Photo]