John Herschel Glenn, Jr. (1921-2016) piloted the first American manned orbital mission on February 20, 1962. Marine Lieutenant Colonel Glenn was one of NASA’s original Mercury astronauts.
Glenn flew NASA’s Friendship 7, a Mercury-Atlas 6 spacecraft, to about 162 miles in altitude, going at a maximum orbital velocity of about 17,500 miles per hour. This mission orbited the Earth 3 times and lasted 4 hours, 55 minutes, and 23 seconds, from launch to impact in the Atlantic Ocean. This was the first US manned orbital mission.
Glenn was born on July 18, 1921, in Cambridge, Ohio. He graduated from Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering. He and Anna Margaret Castor married in 1943, and they had two children (John David, born in 1945, and Carolyn Ann, born in 1947).
In 1943, Glenn was commissioned in the Marine Corps and joined Marine Fighter Squadron 155; he flew F-4U fighter planes on 59 combat missions in the Marshall Islands (islands in the Pacific Ocean) during World War 2. He also flew 63 missions with Marine Fighter Squadron 311 during the Korean War. After attending the Naval Air Test Center at Patuxent River, Maryland, Glenn became a test pilot. Glenn retired a Colonel in the US Marine Corps on January 1, 1965.
Glenn was elected US Senator from Ohio on November, 1974, and served until January, 1999. In 1998, 36 years later, Glenn flew a 9-day mission on the Space Shuttle STS-95 Discovery (October 29 to November 7, 1998). During this mission, the crew and spacecraft orbited the Earth 134 times, traveling 3.6 million miles in 213 hours and 44 minutes.
John Glenn died on December 8, 2016, at the age of 95.