John Glenn Biography

(Tthe First American to Orbit the Earth)

Birthday: July 18, 1921 (Cancer)

Born In: Cambridge, Ohio, United States

The first American astronaut to orbit the earth, the third and the oldest American to make it to space, John Glenn was a man who has donned numerous hats in his lifetime. Before he became a legendary hero, he was a dedicated countryman who served in the United States Military, Navy, and Marine Corps. He served in World War II and the Korean War, leading and flying many successful missions. Soon after, he became a test pilot and received a Distinguished Flying Cross for his record non-stop supersonic transcontinental flight from Los Angeles to New York. He was later recruited into NASA. On board the ‘Friendship 7' spaceship, he successfully encircled the Earth three times, thus becoming the first American to orbit the Earth. He then retired from NASA and became the United States Senator from Ohio and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs. He passionately campaigned against nuclear weapons all through his tenure in the Senate. He received numerous awards and decorations including the NASA Service Medal, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom among many others.

Quick Facts

Nick Name: Magnet Ass

Also Known As: John Herschel Glenn Jr.

Died At Age: 95


Spouse/Ex-: Anna Margaret Castor

father: John Herschel Glenn

mother: Clara Sproat

children: Carolyn Ann Glenn, John David Glenn

Born Country: United States

Astronauts Political Leaders

Height: 1.79 m

political ideology: Democratic

Died on: December 8, 2016

place of death: The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Columbus, Ohio, United States

Ideology: Democrats

More Facts

education: Muskingum University

awards: 2004 - Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service
- Thomas D. White National Defense Award

Childhood & Early Life

John Herschel Glenn, Jr. was born in Cambridge, Ohio, U.S. His parents were John Glenn, Sr., and Teresa; they raised him in the neighborhood of New Concord, Ohio.

He attended the Muskingum College, where he studied engineering. In 1941, he obtained a license as a private pilot after he finished a course in physics and received a credit.

In March 1942, he was commissioned as a United States Navy aviation cadet and was trained at the Naval Air Station Olathe, Kansas. There, he flew his first solo military aircraft.

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From 1943, he received advanced flight training at the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi. He was later enlisted into the U.S. Marine Corps and was assigned to work under Marine Squadron VMJ-353, where he flew transport planes.

During World War II, he was commissioned to the Pacific front, where he flew 59 combat missions. He stayed in the military even after the war and later served in the Korean War.

In 1957, he set a major new speed record after he piloted a plane from Los Angeles to New York within three hours, twenty-three minutes, and 8.3 seconds. It was the first supersonic transcontinental flight.

In 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was formed. The following year, he applied for the recruiting program for astronauts launched by NASA and was selected for the same. Thus, he became one of the seven astronauts to be selected.

In 1962, on board the 'Friendship 7' spacecraft, he successfully encircled the Earth three times in a flight duration of 4 hours, 55 minutes, and 23 seconds. Even after worries about the heat shield not being attached firmly, he managed a safe landing.

In July 1962, he was part of the committee that testified against the House Space Committee, forbidding women to be a part of the NASA astronaut program.

In 1963, he resigned from his position in NASA and decided to run for the office of the Senator in his native state, Ohio. In the next two years, he retired as a Marine Corps Colonel and joined Royal Crown Cola as a business executive.

On December 24, 1974, he took office as a United States Senator from Ohio, finally winning after a few failed attempts. During his term, he campaigned for more research in space and science-related activities.

In 1976, he also made his bid for the Democratic vice presidential nomination. He, however, did not impress many delegates at the Democratic National Convention, where he gave his keynote address.

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In 1978, he became the chief author of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act. This was one of the major bills to be passed against nuclear weapons during his tenure in the Senate.

In 1980, he won re-election to the U.S. Senate, in what turned out to be a landslide victory. He defeated the Republican candidate, Jim Betts by a margin of over 40 percent of votes.

In April 1983, he stood in the race for the presidential candidacy and ran as a centrist, but later on in March the following year, he quit the race because of the poor showings in the early primary elections.

In 1986, he was re-elected to the Senate. He was also appointed as the Chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, a position he held until 1995. During his term in office, he made efforts to ensure safety precautions were taken at nuclear weapon facilities.

In 1991, he traveled to Kuwait, where he led the congressional delegation, after the Persian Gulf War. This resulted in the documentation of legislation that allowed benefits to war veterans.

On October 29, 1998, while he was still holding the office of the Senate, he boarded the ‘Discovery’ space shuttle and ventured for a nine-day mission, thus becoming the oldest man to fly in space. He was 77 years old.

The following year he retired from the office of the Senate consequently ending his 24 years of service in the office.

Major Works

He completed the mission ‘Project Bullet’ on July 16, 1957, which involved him piloting the first supersonic transcontinental flight, from Los Angeles to New York, in a Vought F8U-1P Crusader, in a record, 3 hours, 23 minutes, and 8.3 seconds. The journey not only recorded the first average supersonic speed but also the first continuous transcontinental panoramic photograph of the United States.

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Twice in his lifetime, he ventured out into space, first as one of the seven astronauts and the first American who orbited the Earth three times aboard ‘Friendship 7’ space shuttle on February 20, 1962, and later being one of the crew members for ‘Discovery’ which entailed on a nine-day mission. For the latter, he became the oldest man to fly in space.

Awards & Achievements

He was the proud recipient of the ‘Distinguished Flying Cross', the ‘World War II Victory Medal' and the 'Congressional Space Medal of Honor'.

In 1961, the Muskingum University presented him with an honorary LL.D.

In 1962, he was awarded the NASA Service Medal by then-President John F. Kennedy.

In 1990, he was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame.

In 2000, he was awarded the U.S. Senator John Heinz Award for ‘Greatest Public Service by an Elected or Appointed Official’.

In 2004, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars bestowed upon him the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service.

In 2012, President Barack Obama awarded him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Personal Life & Legacy

In 1943, he married his long-time girlfriend and childhood sweetheart, Anna Margaret Castor. They have two children.

He was believed to be a ‘Freemason’. He was also a member of the Masonic youth group, ‘DeMolay International'.

In 1962, a documentary film based on his life and achievements titled ‘The John Glenn Story', was directed by Michael R. Lawrence. The film earned an Academy Award nomination.

In 2006, he and his wife met with an automobile accident and were admitted to the hospital for two days. He fractured his sternum and suffered from a ‘sore chest’.

In order to honor his achievements, the NASA John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field in Cleveland, Ohio, is named in his honor.

He breathed his last on December 8, 2016. The cause of his death was never disclosed.


This pilot cum astronaut cum U. S. senator is the first American to orbit the Earth. Additionally, he is the third and the oldest American to fly in space.

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