Combat veteran, Gemini astronaut, and Ohio senator, John Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth. The Mercury astronaut took off in the Friendship 7 capsule on February 20, 1962, and spent four hours and 55 minutes orbiting the earth. But that was just what he's most famous for. In World War II,
He became a successful fighter pilot who ran 59 hazardous missions, often as a volunteer or as the requested backup of assigned pilots. A war later, in Korea, he earned the nickname "MiG-Mad Marine" (or "Old Magnet A — ," which he sometimes paraphrased as "Old Magnet Tail.")
"I was the one who went in low and got them," Glenn said, explaining that he often landed with huge holes in the side of his aircraft because he didn't like to shoot from high altitudes.
Glenn's public life began when he broke the transcontinental airspeed record, bursting from Los Angeles to New York City in three hours, 23 minutes and 8 seconds. With his Crusader averaging 725 mph, the 1957 flight proved the jet could endure stress when pushed to maximum speeds over long distances.
In New York, he got a hero's welcome — his first tickertape parade. He got another after his flight on Friendship 7.
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 Kennedy and ally and friend of his brother Robert. The Kennedys urged him to enter politics, and after a difficult few starts he did.
Later in life, Glenn spent 24 years as a senator representing Ohio. He ran for president in 1984. On October 29, 1998, he returned to space aboard the shuttle Discovery at age 77. John Glenn died Thursday at the James Cancer Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
He was 95. Godspeed, John Glenn.