A Tribute to an American Legend

John Glenn

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John Herschel Glenn Jr. was born on July 18, 1921, in Cambridge, Ohio. He grew up in the nearby small town of New Concord with his parents, John and Clara, and his sister, Jean. He would later write that a boy could not have had a more idyllic early childhood.

  • Childhood


    John Glenn, Age 4

    Credit: John Glenn Archives, The Ohio State University.

    Four-year-old John Glenn plays in the snow at his boyhood home in New Concord, Ohio, in 1925.

  • Glenn Plumbing Company

    When he wasn’t in school, young John Glenn helped at his father’s plumbing business in New Concord, Ohio.

    Glenn Plumbing Company in New Concord, Ohio

    From “The John Glenn Story” video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpJFdudBNUw

  • Annie Castor


    Growing up together in small-town New Concord, Ohio, high school sweethearts John Glenn and Annie Castor had known each other most of their lives.

    John Glenn and Annie Castor

    Credit: John Glenn Archives, The Ohio State University.

    Annie Castor and John Glenn as teenagers, circa 1938.

  • Muskingum College

    John Glenn received his Bachelor of Science degree in engineering from Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio. He earned his pilot’s license through the Civilian Pilot Training Program while he was still in school.

    Muskingum College

    Credit: John Glenn Archives, The Ohio State University.

    Photograph of the college’s welcome sign, circa 1962.

  • Marriage


    After receiving his commission in the U.S. Marine Corps, John Glenn married Annie Castor on April 6, 1943.

    John Glenn and Annie Castor

    Credit: John Glenn Archives, The Ohio State University.

    Formal wedding portrait of John Glenn and Annie Castor Glenn, April 6, 1943.


As the United States entered World War II, newly licensed pilot John Glenn committed to serving his country by air. His military career as a fighter pilot, flight instructor, test pilot, and astronaut would span more than two decades. He retired from active service in the U.S. Marine Corps as a Colonel in 1965.

Credit (Background photo): John Glenn Archives, The Ohio State University.

  • Eager to Learn

    In this video excerpt, John Glenn’s parents and first flight instructor describe Glenn’s early interest in aviation, which led to flight training at Pensacola, Florida, and Corpus Christi, Texas.

    From “The John Glenn Story” video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpJFdudBNUw

  • World War II


    John Glenn stands beside his F4U Corsair while stationed in the Marshall Islands with U.S. Marine Corps squadron VMF-155 during World War II.

    John Glenn with his F4U Corsair WWII

    Credit: John Glenn Archives, The Ohio State University.

    John Glenn flies an F4U Corsair in formation with other pilots of U.S. Marine Corps squadron VMO-155 during World War II (hand-tinted print, circa 1944).

    John Glenn flying during WWII

    Credit: U.S. Navy.

  • Korean War


    John Glenn stands beside the damage to the tail of his F9F Panther from antiaircraft fire after a mission during the Korean War with U.S. Marine Corps squadron VMF-311.

    John Glenn with F9F Panther

    Credit: John Glenn Archives, The Ohio State University.

    John Glenn poses in the cockpit of his “MiG Mad Marine” F-86 Sabre while assigned to the 25th Interceptor Squadron of the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War.

    John Glenn in his F-86 Sabre

    Credit: John Glenn Archives, The Ohio State University.

  • Return Home


    John Glenn uses models to show his children, Lyn and David, how he shot down a MiG jet during the Korean War, circa 1953.

    John Glenn with his Children

    Credit: John Glenn Archives, The Ohio State University.

  • Test Pilot


    On July 16, 1957, U.S. Marine Corps Major John Glenn flew the F8U-1P Crusader to a new transcontinental speed record of 725.55 mph, flying from Los Alamitos, California, to Floyd Bennett Field, New York, in 3 hours, 23 minutes, 8.4 seconds.

    Mars Spring tire comparisons

    Credit: John Glenn Archives, The Ohio State University.

    John Glenn waves from the cockpit of the F8U-1P Crusader he piloted for Project Bullet, his record-breaking transcontinental flight.

  • Home Again


    John Glenn relaxes at home with his wife, Annie, and their children, Lyn and David, after his record-breaking transcontinental flight in 1957.

    The Glenn Family

    Credit: John Glenn Archives, The Ohio State University.


In 1959, John Glenn was selected as one of the Mercury Seven, the first group of astronauts in NASA’s newly formed NASA Manned Space Program. The other six astronauts were Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Walter Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Donald “Deke” Slayton.

John Glenn preparing for training exercises

Proficiency Training


Astronaut John Glenn stands in the cockpit of a T-106 as he prepares for training exercises in flight proficiency.

Project Mercury Training

This compilation of video segments highlights John Glenn’s training for Project Mercury as he prepares for his historic orbital flight aboard the Friendship 7 spacecraft.

Gimbal Rig

In this video, John Glenn looks back on his 1960 astronaut training in NASA’s “gimbal rig,” which simulated tumble-type maneuvers astronauts might encounter in spaceflight. Located in the Altitude Wind Tunnel at NASA’s Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, the gimbal rig provided valuable training for all seven Project Mercury astronauts.



On Feb. 20, 1962, piloting the Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft, NASA astronaut John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the Earth.

This video excerpt documents John Glenn’s historic Project Mercury flight from launch to landing.

A Hero's Welcome

This excerpt from “The John Glenn Story” documents the numerous parades and celebrations honoring the American hero for his historic orbital flight.


In 1974, after working in private industry for several years, John Glenn ran a successful campaign to represent Ohio in the U.S. Senate. He was Ohio’s first four-term senator, winning reelection in 1980, 1986, and 1992. He was considered one of the Senate’s leading experts on technical and scientific matters.

Background photo (below): John Glenn receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2012.

  • Swearing In


    John Glenn is sworn into the U.S. Senate by Vice President Nelson Rockefeller in December 1974.

    John Glenn sworn into Senate

    Credit: John Glenn Archives, The Ohio State University.

  • Foreign Relations Committee

    John Glenn speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in the 1980s.

    John Glenn at Senate Foreign Relations Committee

    Credit: John Glenn Archives, The Ohio State University.

Return to Space

On Oct. 29, 1998, at age 77, John Glenn made history once again when he became the oldest man to fly in space. As a payload specialist for NASA’s STS-95 mission, Glenn participated in investigations on spaceflight and the aging process.

New Directions


In this video excerpt, John Glenn explains the inspiration behind his 1998 return to space aboard space shuttle Discovery.

Back in Training

This footage shows John Glenn in the cockpit of a training aircraft as he prepares for his return to space 36 years after becoming the first American to orbit the Earth.

STS-95 Crew


This video follows STS-95 crew members Pedro Duque, Curtis Brown, Chiaki Nauto-Mukai, John Glenn, Stephen Robinson, Steven Lindsey, and Scott Parazynskias as they head to the astro van in preparation for the launch of space shuttle Discovery.

Preparing for Launch


In the White Room at the Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39B, closeout room crew members prepare STS-95 Payload Specialist John Glenn for entry into space shuttle Discovery.

John Glenn preparing for STS-95 Launch

Godspeed, John Glenn


From the suit-up room to the successful liftoff of space shuttle Discovery, this video follows John Glenn as he embarks on his historic second journey into space. One of NASA’s original seven Mercury astronauts shares a special message with the Discovery crew.

Looking Back at Earth


John Glenn photographs Earth targets during Flight Day 7 activity on Discovery’s flight deck.

John Glenn on Space Shuttle Discovery

Working in Microgravity


While aboard space shuttle Discovery, John Glenn participates in investigations exploring the aging process and monitoring his body’s responses to the microgravity environment of space. Investigations focus on balance, perception, immune system response, bone and muscle density, metabolism, blood flow, and sleep.

Return to Earth


NASA Administrator Dan Goldin, left, walks with John Glenn on Nov. 7, 1998, just after Glenn’s return to Earth following the STS-95 space shuttle mission.

NASA Administrator Dan Goldin with John Glenn


On March 1, 1999, NASA’s Lewis Research Center is officially renamed the NASA John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field. Celebration festivities at the center include a May parade featuring John Glenn and his wife, Annie. In this video, Glenn shares his response to the news that Lewis Research Center will be renamed in his honor.


John H. Glenn Jr. died on Dec. 8, 2016, at the age of 95. Another NASA legend, research mathematician Katherine Johnson, released this statement:
“A good man has left Earth for the last time. John Glenn’s life will long be remembered for his time in space, his courage, and his service to all Americans.”

  • Public Viewing at Ohio Statehouse


    Mourners pay tribute as former NASA astronaut and senator John Glenn lies in repose under a U.S. Marine honor guard in the Rotunda of the Ohio Statehouse on Dec. 16, 2016. On Dec. 17, a platoon of 40 U.S. Marines escorted Glenn’s body to Mershon Auditorium at The Ohio State University, where the university hosted a public celebration of Glenn’s life.

  • Heroes and Legends Exhibit Hall


    Former space shuttle astronaut Jon McBride speaks at the Heroes and Legends exhibit hall at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex during a ceremony remembering astronaut John Glenn.

    Jon McBride speaking at a ceremony remembering John Glenn
  • International Space Station


    Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough and Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson pay tribute to John Glenn in a downlink message from the orbital outpost on Dec. 9, 2016.

  • Arlington National Cemetery


    A horse-drawn caisson carries former astronaut and senator John Glenn to his final resting place on Thursday, April 6, 2017, during the interment ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

    John Glenn carried to Arlington National Cemetery


The NASA John H. Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, designs and develops innovative technology to advance NASA’s missions in aeronautics and space exploration.

“Though we lost the senator a few short years ago, we continue his legacy of exploration, inspiration, and discovery at the center bearing his name, and we strive to embody his legacy each day as we make lasting contributions to our nation.”
NASA Glenn Research Center Director
Dr. Marla Pérez-Davis

John Glenn a Living Legacy

Expanding Horizons, Opening Frontiers


During the May 1999 event celebrating the renaming of NASA’s John H. Glenn Research Center, John Glenn spoke of the lasting value of NASA science and research. He noted NASA’s role in “expanding horizons and opening frontiers” – a slogan on one of the celebration’s parade floats – and shared his hope that this important work will provide inspiration for the next generation.