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Who Was John Glenn? (Grades K-4)

This article is for students grades K-4.

John Glenn was a NASA astronaut. He was part of the first group of astronauts NASA picked. He was the first American to orbit Earth. He also became a U.S. senator. Later, he became the oldest person to fly in space.

Image of Astronaut John H. Glenn Jr., Mercury-Atlas 6 pilot.

What Did John Glenn Do Before He Was an Astronaut?

John Glenn was born in Ohio. He was in college when World War II started. Glenn left school to fight in the war. He became a Marine pilot. Later, he trained other pilots. He also fought in the Korean War. After Korea, he became an airplane test pilot. In 1957, Glenn set a speed record when he flew from Los Angeles to New York in less than 3 1/2 hours.

What Did John Glenn Do as an Astronaut?

In 1959, NASA picked the first group of astronauts. The seven men would fly on the Mercury spacecraft. NASA called these men the “Mercury Seven.” John Glenn was one of them.

In 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth. He named his spacecraft “Friendship 7.” He made three orbits around Earth. He spent about five hours in space. His mission showed that the Mercury spacecraft worked in space. The mission also helped NASA learn more about being in space.

What Did John Glenn Do After He Left NASA?

After John Glenn left NASA, he became a U.S. senator from the state of Ohio. He was a senator for 25 years. Later, Glenn worked with college students at Ohio State University in Columbus.

STS-95 Payload Specialist John H. Glenn Jr., senator from Ohio, gives a thumbs up on his arrival at Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility aboard a T-38 jet.
John Glenn became the oldest person to fly in space on his second flight, aboard space shuttle Discovery.
Credits: NASA

What Happened on John Glenn’s Second Spaceflight?

In 1998, John Glenn got to fly to space again. He flew with six other astronauts on the space shuttle. It had been 36 years since his first spaceflight. The new flight would help NASA learn what being in space does to older people. Because NASA knew so much about him, Glenn was perfect for the job. He was 77 years old when he flew on the shuttle. He was the oldest person to fly in space.

How Long Did John Glenn Live?

John Glenn was born on July 18, 1921. He died in Columbus, Ohio, on December 8, 2016. He was 95 years old.

More About John Glenn:
John Glenn Image Gallery
What Was Project Mercury?
Read Who Was John Glenn? (Grades 5-8)