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Who Is John Glenn?
February 19, 2014
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John Glenn is a former NASA astronaut. He was part of the first group of astronauts NASA selected. In 1962, he became the first American to orbit Earth. After leaving NASA, he became a U.S. senator. Later, he became the oldest person to fly in space.

What Did John Glenn Do Before He Was an Astronaut?
John Glenn was born in Ohio in 1921. He was attending college when the United States entered World War II. Glenn left college and joined the military. He became a Marine pilot. He flew combat missions in the Pacific. Later, Glenn trained pilots and then flew in the Korean War. After Korea, he became a test pilot. In 1957, he set a speed record for flying across the U.S., traveling at 726 mph.

What Did John Glenn Do as an Astronaut?
In 1959, NASA selected its first group of astronauts, the "Mercury Seven." They were called this because the seven men would fly on the Mercury spacecraft. In 1962, John Glenn became the first American astronaut to orbit Earth. Two cosmonauts from the former Soviet Union already had orbited Earth, including Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. Two American astronauts had been in space, but neither had orbited the planet.
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John Glenn's Mercury mission launched on Feb. 20, 1962. He named his spacecraft "Friendship 7." He made three orbits of Earth and spent about five hours in space. His mission successfully showed that the Mercury spacecraft worked in space the way it was intended. The mission also helped NASA learn more about being in space.

What Did John Glenn Do After He Left NASA?
John Glenn resigned from NASA two years after his Mercury flight. When he left NASA, he ran for the U.S. Senate from the state of Ohio. An injury forced him to withdraw from that race. He went on to be elected to the U.S. Senate in 1974, and served in the senate for 25 years. In 1984, John Glenn ran for U.S. president but did not win the Democratic nomination. After leaving the Senate in 1999, he became an adjunct professor at Ohio State University. In 1999, NASA renamed its field center in Cleveland, Ohio, "John H. Glenn Research Center" after him.

What Happened on John Glenn's Second Spaceflight?
In 1998, NASA announced that John Glenn would be making a second spaceflight, 36 years after his first flight. That was the longest time any astronaut had gone between two spaceflights.
The purpose of his flight was to study the effects of spaceflight on the elderly. NASA doctors had followed Glenn's health since he first became an astronaut. They were able to use that data to understand how spaceflight affected him on his second flight. He flew with six other astronauts on the STS-95 mission of the space shuttle Discovery. At 77 years old, he became the oldest person to fly in space.
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Words to Know
cosmonaut: (n.) a Soviet or Russian astronaut

adjunct: (adj.) in a temporary or part-time position



More About John Glenn:
› John Glenn   →
› Friendship 7   →
› STS-95
› What Was Project Mercury?
› John Glenn - Space Pioneer


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David Hitt/NASA Educational Technology Services

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Glenn wears his silver Mercury spacesuit
Mercury astronauts wore silver spacesuits during their flights.
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NASA
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Friendship 7 launches atop an Atlas rocket
John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth on the Friendship 7 mission.
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NASA
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John Glenn gives a thumbs-up in the cockpit of a training jet
John Glenn became the oldest person to fly in space on his second flight, aboard space shuttle Discovery.
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NASA
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Page Last Updated: February 19th, 2014
Page Editor: NASA Administrator