Aerospace Icon Senator John Glenn Flies West

 - December 12, 2016, 12:12 PM
John Glenn entering the tight confines of Friendship 7

Astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn passed away on Thursday at the age of 95.

On Feb. 20, 1962, strapped into a cramped Mercury capsule, 40-year-old Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth, which he did three times before splashing down in the Atlantic 800 miles south of Bermuda. How he dealt with concerns that the heat shield would separate on reentry cemented his reputation for staying calm under pressure. The five-hour feat instantly elevated Glenn, the last survivor of the seven Mercury astronauts, to the pedestal occupied by the likes of the Wright brothers and Charles Lindbergh.

Glenn served as a U.S. Senator from Ohio for four terms. In 1984 he mounted an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination and returned to the Senate for another 14 years.

On Oct. 29, 1998, Glenn returned to space aboard the shuttle Discovery, in which he spent nine days in orbit. At the age of 77, he was the oldest person to go into space.

As a Marine fighter pilot, he flew 59 combat missions in the WWII Pacific Theater, earning two DFCs, and 90 combat missions in the Korean War. In 1957 he piloted a Chance Vought F8U-1 Crusader from L.A. to New York in three hours, 23 minutes and 8.4 seconds, marking the first supersonic transcontinental flight.