Astronaut John Glenn dies at 95

Astronaut John Glenn dies at 95
December 9, 2016
John Glenn Climbing into Friendship 7
Photo Credit: NASA. First American in orbit, decorated pilot, senator

December 9, 2016
By Jim Moore
AOPA.org

John Glenn, who captured the nation’s imagination and became a hero for the ages in 1962 as the first American to orbit the Earth, and who was the last surviving Mercury astronaut, died Dec. 8 at age 95. His death was announced by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, on social media. Tributes began to flow within minutes. Glenn was one of very few American aerospace pioneers whose feats made them household names for generations, comparable in that regard to Charles A. Lindbergh or the Wright brothers. His Friendship 7 mission on Feb. 20, 1962, lasted five hours, but its impact inspired millions.

“No flier since Lindbergh had received such a cheering welcome,” The New York Times reported in an obituary published within hours of Glenn’s death. “Bands played. People cried with relief and joy. Mr. Glenn was invited to the White House by President John F. Kennedy and paraded up Broadway and across the land. A joint meeting of Congress stood and applauded vigorously as Mr. Glenn spoke at the Capitol.”

Glenn was already a decorated war hero by the time, at age 40, he climbed aboard the tiny capsule that would hurtle him into history. He took flying lessons while studying chemistry at Muskingum College in his Ohio home town. After the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, he signed up for the Naval Aviation cadet program and would later join the Marine Corps. He flew 59 combat missions in the Pacific, earning two Distinguished Flying Crosses, and other decorations.

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