- Glenn, John H., Jr.
▪ American astronaut and politicianborn July 18, 1921, Cambridge, Ohio, U.S.the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth, completing three orbits in 1962. (Soviet cosmonaut Yury Gagarin (Gagarin, Yury Alekseyevich), the first person in space, made a single orbit of the Earth in 1961).Glenn joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1943 and flew 59 missions during World War II and 90 missions during the Korean War. He was a test pilot from 1954 and was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1959. Of the seven U.S. military pilots selected in that year for Project Mercury astronaut training, he was the oldest. Glenn served as a backup pilot for Alan B. Shepard, Jr., and Virgil I. Grissom, who made the first two U.S. suborbital flights into space. Glenn was selected for the first orbital flight, and on February 20, 1962, his space capsule, Friendship 7, was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Its orbit ranged from approximately 99 to 162 miles (159 to 261 km) in altitude, and Glenn made three orbits, landing in the Atlantic Ocean near The Bahamas.Glenn retired from the space program and the Marine Corps in 1964 to enter private business and to pursue his interest in politics. In 1970 he sought the Democratic nomination for a U.S. Senate seat in Ohio but lost narrowly in the primary. He was elected U.S. senator from that state in 1974 and was reelected three times thereafter. Glenn was unsuccessful, however, in his bid to become the 1984 Democratic presidential candidate.On October 29, 1998, Glenn returned to space as a payload specialist on a nine-day mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery. The oldest person ever to travel in space, Glenn at age 77 participated in experiments that studied similarities between the aging process and the body's response to weightlessness.
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