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John Glenn, HON ’62

Senator John Glenn, a retired United States Marine Corps pilot and space pioneer, became the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962, as part of the Mercury program.  After leaving NASA, he won a senate seat and served four terms as a Democratic senator from Ohio. When he was 77, Glenn flew again, aboard the Shuttle Discovery, and still holds the record for oldest man in space.

John Glenn, a true American hero, served as a combat aviator in his early career.  Having flown a total of 149 missions during World War II and the Korean War, Glenn received, among other honors, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with 18 clusters.

It was as one of the Mercury Seven, the team of elite U.S. military pilots selected in 1959 to be the first American astronauts, that Glenn made his greatest mark on history.  On February 20, 1962, he made his legendary flight, piloting the Friendship 7 spacecraft on its five-hour, three-orbit flight around the earth.  Glenn’s contributions to manned space flight as part of the Mercury program marked the beginning of humankind’s substantive exploration of space.

Glenn left the space program in 1964 and in 1974 was elected to his first term in the United States Senate.  On October 29, 1998, he returned to space as a payload specialist on a nine-day mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery.  Glenn participated in experiments on the Spacehab module that studied similarities between the aging process and the body’s response to weightlessness.

Senator Glenn’s numerous lifetime awards include the Congressional Space Medal of Honor (1978) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2012). In 1962 he was elected an honorary member of The Explorers Club, joining a distinguished group of outstanding individuals who have rendered lifelong services in the field of exploration.

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Background image photography courtesy of members Christoph Baumer, Neil Laughton, Matt Harris and Don Walsh's image of the Bathyscape Trieste