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John Glenn, first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth, longtime senator, dies at 95

John Glenn, the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth, has passed away at the age of 95.

An American hero, Glenn was the last survivor of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, the group chosen by NASA in 1959 as its first crew to travel into space. He completed his iconic orbit of Earth a few years later on February 20, 1962. During the historic flight, he uttered the words, “Oh, that view is tremendous” in reference to seeing our planet from 100 miles up.

In addition to being the third U.S. astronaut in space, Glenn was also a World War II combat pilot, a former Marine, and a politician. He spent 24 years as a Democratic senator from Ohio, and was considered as a possible vice presidential running mate on three occasions in the 1980s and early 1990s.

In 1998, he became the oldest person to travel to space when he flew aboard the space shuttle Discovery. At the time, he was 77 years old. With 36 years since his last space flight, the mission represented the longest interval between space flights by the same person.

In 2012, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

News of Glenn’s death was confirmed by Ohio governor John Kasich, who wrote: “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!”

Others paying tribute to Glenn on Twitter included the official U.S. Marines account, which praised him as a “legend,” and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who called him a “hero.”

In a separate statement, the Space Foundation said that, “U.S. success in space was built on the courage and determination of men like John Glenn, who dedicated his life to serving his country and proving what humans could accomplish in space.”

John Glenn had been hospitalized for more than a week in Columbus, Ohio prior to his death. It is expected that he will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia. He is survived by his children and his wife of 73 years.