John Glenn, first astronaut to orbit Earth and former Senator, dies at 95

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Former astronaut and U.S. Sen. John Glenn has died in Ohio. He was 95.

Glenn became a national hero in 1962 when he became the first American to orbit the Earth.

Hank Wilson with the John Glenn School of Public Affairs says Glenn died Thursday afternoon at the James Cancer Hospital in Columbus.

Glenn was the third U.S. astronaut in space and the first of them to get into orbit. He circled the Earth three times. The Soviet Union had put a man into orbit a year earlier in 1961.

Glenn then spent 24 years as a Democrat from Ohio in the Senate and briefly made a run for president in 1984. He returned to space in 1998, at age 77, aboard space shuttle Discovery.

He was the last survivor of the original Mercury 7 astronauts.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ten notable aspects of the life of astronaut and senator John H. Glenn Jr. who died Thursday at 95:

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ENDURING MARRIAGE

Glenn married his childhood sweetheart, Anna “Annie” Margaret Castor, in 1943. She survives him. He bought her a diamond engagement ring in 1942 for $125 and it was never replaced.

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FIGHTER PILOT

John Glenn was a U.S. Marine Corps fighter pilot in World War II and the Korean conflict, flying 149 missions. He flew with baseball legend Ted Williams and his plane was riddled with bullets when he flew at low altitude.

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TEST PILOT

As a military test pilot in 1957, Glenn broke the transcontinental air speed record, bursting from Los Angeles to New York City in 3 hours, 23 minutes and 8 seconds. His Crusader jet averaged 725 miles per hour.

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FIRST AMERICAN TO ORBIT EARTH:

Glenn went into orbit on Friendship 7 on Feb. 20, 1962, but the Soviet Union’s Yuri Gagarin was the first man to orbit Earth and Alan Shephard was the first American in space, on a sub-orbital mission.

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IN THE CANYON OF HEROES

A total of 3,474 tons of paper were swept up after Glenn’s ticker tape parade in New York in March of 1962 — more than any parade since the one marking the end of World War II.

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TOO IMPORTANT TO FLY?

It has been said that President John F. Kennedy felt he could not risk sending Glenn into space a second time. Said Glenn in a 1995 interview: “Kennedy had indicated to NASA that he would just as soon that I was not assigned to another flight. Now, whether it was because of the impact if I got killed on the second flight would that reflect politically, I never knew.”

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LONGTIME SENATOR

A Democrat, Glenn was Ohio’s longest serving senator, serving just a bit more than 24 years until 1999. But that was only after two earlier attempts. In 1964, he had to stop his campaign after he hit his head in a bathtub accident, and he lost the Democratic primary in 1970.

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HAT IN THE ULTIMATE RING

Glenn ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 1984 but lost in the primaries to former Vice President Walter Mondale.

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OLDEST MAN IN SPACE

Glenn returned to space aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1998 at age 77. He was the subject of experiments on geriatrics and microgravity.

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LAST OF HIS KIND:

Glenn was the last surviving member of the original Mercury 7 astronauts. Five hundred forty-six people flew in orbit after Glenn, only two before: Gagarin and Gherman Titov.

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