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Space & Astronomy

60th anniversary of John Glenn's orbital spaceflight

By T.K. Randall
February 21, 2022 · Comment icon 1 comment

John Glenn made history 60 years ago. Image Credit: NASA
On February 20th, 1962, NASA astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth.
Born in 1921 in eastern Ohio, Glenn's passion for flying manifested at an early age via his childhood obsession with airplanes. He earned his private pilot's license in 1941 during his time studying physics and engineering at Muskingum College.

Later becoming an officer in the United States Marine Corps, Glenn became a test pilot and was recruited by NASA as one of the legendary 'Mercury Seven' - America's first astronauts.

What would ultimately cement his place in the history books however was his flight aboard the Friendship 7 mission in 1962 which saw him become the first American to orbit the planet.

In 1978 he received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor and was also inducted in to the US Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1990.
"It still seems so vivid to me," he said back in 2012 when asked about his 1962 flight. "I still can sort of pseudo-feel some of those same sensations I had back in those days during launch and all."

The mission represented a major accomplishment for NASA at a time when Russia's Yuri Gagarin had become the first human in space some ten months earlier.

Incredibly, Glenn would venture into space again at the age of 77 - a record at the time - aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery for a nine-day trip.

He died in December 2016 at the James cancer hospital in Columbus at the age of 95.

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