John H. Glenn Jr.
Astronaut John Glenn in his space suit sitting outside the Friendship 7 space capsule. As pilot of the Friendship 7, Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth on February 20, 1962.
John Herschel Glenn, Jr., was born in Cambridge, Ohio, on July 18, 1921. While Glenn was still an infant, the family moved to nearby New Concord, Ohio, where his father owned his own plumbing business and car dealership. After attending the local public schools, Glenn earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from Muskingum College, also located in New Concord.
While Glenn was attending college, the United States entered World War II. In 1942, Glenn became part of the Naval Aviation Cadet Program. After finishing his training, he piloted planes in the Pacific theater of the war. In the final year of the war, Glenn also became a test pilot. By the end of the war, he had reached the rank of captain. Glenn continued to serve in the military in the years following the war, once again flying combat missions during the Korean War.
In 1958, Glenn became one of seven original astronauts chosen by the National Air and Space Administration for the first American space missions. Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth on February 20, 1962. The mission was known as Friendship 7. In just under five hours, Glenn orbited the Earth three times. The Friendship 7 mission made Glenn a household name, not only in the United States but also in many other parts of the world. He received a ticker tape parade in New York City, as well as many other honors. Glenn continued to work for NASA until early 1964, and he retired from the Marine Corps the following year. He then entered the business world, serving as an executive for Royal Crown Cola for the remainder of the decade and into the early 1970s.
In the 1970s, Glenn entered the political arena as a member of the Democratic Party. He ran unsuccessfully for a U.S. Senate seat in the Democratic primary against Howard Metzenbaum in 1970. In 1974, Glenn was more successful. He won the election and ultimately served in the Senate until retiring in 1999. He also tried unsuccessfully to obtain the Democratic Party's nomination for President in the 1984 election. As a senator, Glenn was the chairman of the Committee on Government Affairs from 1978 to 1995, and he also served on the Foreign Relations Committee, the Armed Services Committee, and the Special Committee on Aging.
On October 29, 1998, at the age of 77 years, Glenn became the oldest person to travel in space. He served as a member of the crew of Space Shuttle Discovery STS-95. Glenn focused on researching the effects of the space environment on aging. In the years since, Glenn has continued to be supportive of both NASA and the American space program. After the space shuttle flight, NASA renamed the Lewis Research Center, located in Cleveland, Ohio, the NASA John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field.