John Glenn, first American in orbit, dies at 95

John Glenn
John Glenn orbited the planet in 1962 and flew on the space shuttle in 1998. (NASA Photo)

Godspeed, John Glenn.

The first American to go into orbit, and the first astronaut to become a senator and presidential candidate, died today in Ohio at the age of 95.

The Columbus Dispatch reported that Glenn was surrounded by family, including his wife Annie, at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center when he died.

President Barack Obama said that with Glenn’s passing, “our nation has lost an icon, and Michelle and I have lost a friend.”

“John always had the right stuff, inspiring generations of scientists, engineers and astronauts who will take us to Mars and beyond — not just to visit, but to stay,” Obama said in a statement.

Glenn made history as one of NASA’s original Mercury 7 on Feb. 20, 1962, when he circled the planet three times. That mission followed up on Soviet astronaut Yuri Gagarin’s first-ever orbital flight in 1961 and two U.S. suborbital spaceflights, setting the stage for America to get into the race to the moon in earnest.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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