The former senator and first American to orbit the Earth has died at 95.
John Glenn, the lifelong pilot, decorated war veteran, and former senator who became the first American to orbit the Earth during the height of the space race, has died. He was 95.
Glenn died Thursday in his home state of Ohio, a day after news of his hospitalization was reported. He was the last-surviving member of NASA’s first class of astronauts in 1959.
On the morning of February 20, 1962, a 40-year-old John Glenn stepped inside a Mercury capsule, the spacecraft of America’s first human spaceflight program, for the Friendship 7 mission. The launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, was broadcast live on radio and television. “Go, baby!” exclaimed Walter Cronkite several times on air as Glenn, the only person on board, shot into the sky. A year earlier, NASA had successfully launched Alan Shepard into space on a Mercury capsule, but human spaceflight was in its infancy and remained a potentially deadly endeavor. NASA, a fledgling four-year-old agency, believed they’d lose at least one astronaut to one of the Mercury missions. Glenn’s capsule was launched on the sixth iteration of the Atlas rocket, and two of the first rockets had blown up.