John Glenn: First American in Orbit

Glenn (center) with President John F. Kennedy and General Leighton I. Davis celebrating Glenn’s orbital flight in 1962. (NASA image via Wikimedia Commons)

On Thursday, John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth and a longtime senator from Ohio died at the age of 95.

Here are a few things you may not have known about him.

John Glenn was born on July 18, 1921, in Cambridge, Ohio, in the southeastern part of the state.

In 1941, he earned his private pilot license for credit in a physics class at Muskingum College. He didn’t complete his degree at that time because he quit college to enlist in the Army Air Corps. He was never called to duty, so he enlisted in the Navy as an aviation cadet. Soon after, he transferred to the Marine Corps.

Beginning in 1943, Glenn flew 59 combat missions in the South Pacific, and was promoted to captain shortly before the end of World War II.

During the Korean War, Glenn flew 63 missions in the new F9F Panther jet. He gained the nickname “Magnet Ass” for his ability to draw enemy fire. Twice he returned to base with more than 250 holes in his plane. For a time, baseball legend Ted Williams served as his wingman.

After the Korean War, Glenn served as a test pilot, completing the first transcontinental supersonic flight in 1957.

A year later he applied for a place in NASA’s first class of astronauts. Despite being 39 years old, just shy of the age limit of 40, and not holding a required college degree in science, Glenn was among the group chosen. Glenn joined Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton as part of the Mercury Seven.

Glenn was chosen for the third Mercury mission, the first that would orbit the Earth. On the morning of February 20, 1962, atop an Atlas rocket, John Glenn, inside his capsule called Friendship 7, was launched into orbit.

Glenn circled the Earth three times during his almost 5-hour mission before splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean north of Puerto Rico.

Glenn was given a hero’s welcome on his return home, receiving a ticker-tape parade in New York City, and meeting with President John F. Kennedy and receiving the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.

In 1964, Glenn resigned from NASA to run for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat. However, his candidacy was short-lived as he dropped out after suffering a concussion in a fall in the bathtub. He retired from the Marine Corps on January 1, 1965, and went to work as an executive with Royal Crown Cola.

Glenn became close friends with the Kennedy family. He was present when Bobby Kennedy was killed in 1968, and served as one of his pallbearers. Glenn ran for Senate again in 1970, losing the Democratic primary. He was finally elected to the Senate in 1974. He was a candidate for vice president in 1976, and for president in 1984.

In 1998, at the age of 77 and while still serving as a senator, Glenn returned to space on the shuttle Discovery, as part of an experiment in geriatric studies.

The mission made Glenn the oldest person to fly in space, and the only person to fly in both the Mercury and Space Shuttle programs.

Upon the crew’s return to Earth, they were the recipients of a ticker-tape parade in New York, making Glenn the 10th and most recent non-athlete to receive multiple ticker-tape parades.

In June 2016, the Port Columbus International Airport was renamed in honor of John Glenn.

Glenn was the last surviving member of the Mercury Seven.

Glenn married the former Annie Castor in 1943 after they met in college. She survives him, along with their two children and two grandchildren.

Our question: Who defeated John Glenn for the 1984 Democratic presidential nomination?


Today is International Anti-Corruption Day, and National Heroes Day in Antigua and Barbuda.

It’s unofficially National Salesperson Day, International Day of Veterinary Medicine, and World Techno Day.

It’s the birthday of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who was born in 1905; actor Kirk Douglas, who is 100 years old; and actress Judi Dench, who is 82.

Because our topic happened before 1960, we’ll spin the wheel to pick a year at random.

This week in 2003, the top song in the U.S. was “Hey Ya!” by Outkast.

The No. 1 movie was “The Last Samurai,” while the novel “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.



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