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  Newsmakers   10 Dec 2016  Last of seven US space samurais dies

Last of seven US space samurais dies

Published : Dec 10, 2016, 6:27 am IST
Updated : Dec 10, 2016, 6:32 am IST

John Glenn was first American to orbit Earth, one of the 7 Mercury astronauts.

John Glenn
 John Glenn

Columbus: John Glenn, who made history twice as the first American to orbit Earth and the first senior citizen to venture into space, died on Thursday at the age of 95. 

Glenn became a symbol of strength and the nation’s pioneering spirit, drawing admirers from all walks of life over a long career in the military, then the US space agency Nasa, and the US Senate.

He was chosen along with six other military pilots as part of the Original Seven, the very first class of US astronauts in 1959 whose saga was recounted in the classic movie The Right Stuff.

Nasa was among the first to pay tribute to the legendary astronaut who went on to serve as a lawmaker for more than two decades, calling him “a true American hero.”

“Godspeed, John Glenn. Ad astra,” Nasa tweeted, echoing the famous words radioed by fellow astronaut Scott Carpenter to Glenn before he circled the Earth in 1962.

Glenn died at the James Cancer Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, according to Hank Wilson, a spokesman for the John Glenn College of Public Affairs. The cause of death was not immediately announced. 

“With John’s passing, our nation has lost an icon and Michelle and I have lost a friend,” said President Barack Obama. “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,” he said.

The former astronaut and veteran of two wars had been in declining health, undergoing heart-valve replacement surgery in 2014 and reportedly suffering a stroke, and was hospitalised in Columbus more than a week before he died. “John is one of the best and bravest men I’ve ever known,” said secretary of state John Kerry as he paid respects to his friend and former colleague in the Senate, calling him “an inspiration.” 

President-elect Donald Trump, who happened to be in Columbus when Glenn’s death was announced, paid his own tribute, telling a rally later in Iowa: “He was a giant among men, and a true American legend.” 

Former president Bill Clinton also paid tribute to Glenn, in a statement signed with his wife Hillary Clinton. “I was honoured to approve sending John back into space in 1998, making him, at age 77, the oldest person to ever make the journey.” “How lucky we were to have him so long.”



  • The first man to orbit Earth was Russia’s Yuri Gagarin in 1961
  • On February 20, 1962, John Glenn became the first American to do it
  • His flight lasted just under 5 hours and he circled the Earth 3 times as part of NASA’s Mercury project
  • 36 years later, on October 29, 1998, Glenn made history again 
  • He returned to space at the age of 77 becoming the oldest astronaut in space
  • Born July 18, 1921, in Cambridge, Ohio, Glenn joined the Marine Corps in 1943 becoming a fighter pilot
  • He served in the Pacific during World War II, and later in the Korean War
  • He flew a total of 149 combat missions and downed three fighter jets over the Yalu River 
  • In 1957, he made the first non-stop supersonic flight from LA to NY and became an astronaut 2 years later
  • In 1965, Glenn entered the Senate as a Democrat
  • Glenn made two unsuccessful tries for the presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988
  • In November 2011, then 90 years, Glenn was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal
  • In 2012, he got the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Tags: nasa, astronauts, barack obama, donald trump, john glenn
Location: United States, Ohio, Columbus