John Glenn became an instant celebrity when he stepped from the “Friendship 7” spacecraft in 1962. He was the second man to ascend into space and the first to man a spacecraft bearing the emblem of the United States of America.
John Hershel Glenn Jr., (1921- )
Colonel USMC, retired, former NASA Astronaut.
John Glenn was born on July 18, 1921 in Cambridge, Ohio. He had a great childhood and speaks of his it as being idyllic as he grew up around his parents and mentors. His interest in science and flying became apparent at a very young age and he followed his interests throughout his work life. He received his B.S. degree in Engineering from Muskingum College.
Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, John Glenn became a marine pilot and a first time hero.
He flew 59 combat missions in the South Pacific over a two year period and received a number of awards and medals. He excelled and was a six-time winner of the Distinguished Flying Cross. After WWII ended, he joined the Naval Air Test Center’s staff of expert fliers. He made himself invaluable with his skill and knowledge.
When the astronaut corps formed in 1958, he was selected for the program. In 1959, he was selected as one of the first seven astronauts for the NASA Mercury Space Program. Then he made history.
In February of 1962, he made three historical orbital flights in the Friendship 7 spacecraft. Americans were ecstatic! Glenn’s flight lasted 4 hours, 55 minutes and 23 seconds. Russia had already sent cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, into space the previous year but Gagarin made only one orbit and was in space for only 108 minutes. (1 hour and 48 minutes)
The U.S. answered the space challenge with great success in a longer space flight and successful recovery of the Friendship 7 spacecraft!
After his historical space flight, John Glenn served as adviser at NASA until 1964. He was a backup pilot for astronauts, Alan Shepherd and Gus Grissom. He resigned in 1964 when he became interested in politics and service. He served as a business executive from 1965 until 1974 at which time he won a senate seat from the state of Ohio. He served in the senate until 1999.
In 1998, Glenn rejoined NASA, at their invitation, and took his second space flight at age 77 aboard the space shuttle, Discovery. He is the oldest person to have flown in space as of today.
John Glenn and his wife Annie are founders of the John Glenn Institute for public service at Ohio State University. Their goal is to improve the quality of public service. They also serve as trustees of Muskingum College, their Alma Mater.
I looked up to the sky that evening and saw John Glenn’s space capsule moving across the sky; orbiting the earth. What a sight! It was barely larger than a dot in the sky, but its movement across the sky was visible to the naked eye. There are no words to describe that moment in time.