Symbol of strength
US space legend John Glenn dies at 95
John Glenn, who made history twice as the first US citizen to orbit Earth and the first senior citizen to venture into space, died on Thursday at the age of 95.
Glenn became a symbol of strength and the nation’s pioneering spirit, drawing admirers from all walks of life over a long career in the military, then NASA, and the US Senate.
He was chosen along with six other military pilots as part of the “Original Seven”, the very first class of US astronauts in 1959 whose saga was recounted in the classic movie The Right Stuff.
The US space agency NASA was among the first to pay tribute to the legendary astronaut who went on to serve as a lawmaker for more than two decades, calling him “a true American hero”.
Glenn died at the James Cancer Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, according to Hank Wilson, a spokesman for the John Glenn College of Public Affairs. The cause of death was not immediately announced.
“With John’s passing, our nation has lost an icon,” said President Barack Obama.
In declining health
The former astronaut and veteran of two wars had been in declining health, undergoing heart-valve replacement surgery in 2014 and reportedly suffering a stroke, and was hospitalized in Columbus more than a week before he died.
“John is one of the best and bravest men I’ve ever known,” said Secretary of State John Kerry as he paid respects to his friend and former colleague in the Senate, calling him “an inspiration”.
President-elect Donald Trump, who happened to be in Columbus when Glenn’s death was announced, paid his own tribute, telling a rally later in Iowa: “He was a giant among men, and a true American legend.”
The first man to orbit Earth was Russia’s Yuri Gagarin in 1961. On Feb 20, 1962, Glenn became the first US astronaut to accomplish the same feat, uttering the memorable phrase: “Zero G and I feel fine.”
Guenter Wendt (right), the original pad leader for NASA’s manned space program, coaxes a smile out of John Glenn after the MA-6 mission was scrubbed in Cape Canaveral, Florida.