The announcement of astronaut John Glenn’s death at the age of 95 sparked a flood of tributes on Thursday, including those from President Barack Obama, President-elect Donald Trump, and U.S. space agency NASA.
John Herschel Glenn Jr. was born on July 18, 1921 in Cambridge, Ohio, and spent his formative years in nearby New Concord. Unlike his fellow “Mercury Seven” astronauts, Glenn did not complete a science-based degree in college, and was also very close to the maximum age of 40 for astronaut candidacy. But he was still part of NASA’s first class of astronauts, and on February 20, 1962, he became the third American in space, and the first American to orbit the Earth.
The former World War II and Korean War veteran’s history-making flight was not without its share of danger. According to The Atlantic, Glenn orbited Earth three times in four hours and 56 minutes, but experienced a close call when he saw “a real fireball outside” as the Friendship 7 capsule reentered Earth’s atmosphere. Glenn was unharmed and safe when the capsule crash-landed into the Caribbean Sea.
As the Inquisitr noted in a report Thursday night, John Glenn entered the world of politics after retiring as an astronaut, serving for more than 25 years as an Ohio senator. He did, however, join six much younger astronauts in 1998, effectively becoming the oldest person in space at 77-years-old. The New York Times wrote that year that Glenn was to take part in aging-related experiments, though he had been removed from one of the experiments due to medical reasons.
With almost 55 years having passed since his historic flight, John Glenn’s death on Thursday had him recognized as a “true American hero,” as the movers and shakers in the world of politics, business, education, and space travel took time out to honor him. According to CBS News, these included NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who posted a statement recognizing Glenn’s achievements.
“Glenn’s extraordinary courage, intellect, patriotism, and humanity were the hallmarks of a life of greatness. His missions have helped make possible everything our space program has since achieved and the human missions to an asteroid and Mars that we are striving toward now…. The entire NASA Family will be forever grateful for his outstanding service, commitment, and friendship.”
Both President Obama and President-elect Donald Trump also looked back on Glenn’s career with NASA, with Obama focusing in particular on his flight aboard Friendship 7 in 1962. John Glenn was, prior to his death, the last surviving member of the Mercury Seven class, following Scott Carpenter’s passing in October 2013.
“The last of America’s first astronauts has left us, but propelled by their example we know that our future here on Earth compels us to keep reaching for the heavens,” said Obama. “On behalf of a grateful nation, Godspeed, John Glenn.”
Today we lost a great pioneer of air and space in John Glenn. He was a hero and inspired generations of future explorers. He will be missed.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2016
Trump was more succinct in his tribute, taking to Twitter and referring to John Glenn as a “great pioneer of air and space,” and someone who “inspired generations of future explorers.”
Tesla and SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk was among the more prominent business personalities who honored Glenn, saying he lived a “life well lived.”
Ed Harris, the actor who played John Glenn in the 1983 film The Right Stuff, issued his own statement, offering condolences to Glenn’s family, including Annie, his wife of 73 years.
“I never had the chance to meet him, have no idea what he thought of the film, but I mourn the passing of this decent and honorable man and send much love and all good thoughts to Annie and his family.”
As of this writing, there has been no confirmation on the cause of John Glenn’s death, but CNBC noted that the astronaut had suffered a stroke in 2014, and had recently been taken to the James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State University, where he had died on Thursday.
[Featured Image by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]