John Glenn – the American icon, the aviator, the astronaut – passed away at age 95. His nation mourns the loss and remembers him fondly.
All Americans learned the name John Glenn in elementary school. After all, he was the first American to orbit the Earth during the Mercury Mission, aboard Friendship 7 in 1962. This earned him national hero status and made him an enduring icon. Again, he made history in 1998 when he became the oldest person to fly in space, at age 77 aboard the Discovery space shuttle.
The story is even bigger than that, given his successful career as a U.S. Marine Corps pilot – flying 59 combat mission over the South Pacific in World War II and 90 combat missions during the Korean War. He went on to become a Marine Corps test pilot and tested supersonic and other military aircraft until such time that NASA recruited him as one of the Mercury Seven test pilots. This was 1958, a time when space travel was in its infancy and wrought with incredible danger.
After his distinguished military career and groundbreaking stint with NASA, the people in his home state of Ohio elected him as their senator and sent him to Washington, D.C. in 1974. He represented his state in the Senate dutifully for four six-year terms. As a devoted member of the Democratic Party, he ran for president in 1984, only to concede defeat to Walter Mondale during the primary campaign.
Throughout his time as a U.S. senator, he was a staunch advocate for NASA and the U.S. space program. Perhaps that’s why NASA agreed to let him venture into space one more time – at an age when most Americans are resigned to their golden years.
We salute this man who loved to fly. He showed us all the importance of dreaming big and living larger than life.
John Herschel Glenn, Jr.
July 18, 1921 – December 8, 2016