John Glenn, the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth, died today at age 95. His death was announced on Twitter by Ohio governor (and former presidential candidate) John Kasich.
Born in Cambridge, Ohio, Glenn was a pilot in World War II and the Korean War, earning six Distinguished Flying Crosses for his military service. Afterward, he became a test pilot for Naval and Marine aircraft and set the transcontinental air speed record in 1957, with a flight that averaged supersonic speed.
Glenn’s exemplary record as a pilot made him an obvious candidate for the country’s space program. In 1962, he orbited the Earth in an Atlas rocket, becoming the first American to do so and only the third American to have entered outer space.
Years later, on the advice of Robert F. Kennedy, Glenn got into politics, winning a Senate seat in Ohio that he held from 1974 to 1998. Glenn quickly developed a reputation as a “workhorse” with a passion for defense issues, specifically weapons systems and nuclear proliferation issues.
In recent years, Glenn suffered some health complications, including a stroke and heart valve replacement surgery. He had been hospitalized at the James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State University with an undisclosed illness when he passed.
“With John’s passing, our nation has lost an icon and Michelle and I have lost a friend,” President Obama said in a statement honoring Glenn. “John spent his life breaking barriers, from defending our freedom as a decorated Marine Corps fighter pilot in World War II and Korea, to setting a transcontinental speed record, to becoming, at age 77, the oldest human to touch the stars. John always had the right stuff.”