Pioneering astronaut John Glenn dies, aged 95

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Astronaut and US Senator John Glenn suited up ahead of his return to space in 1998 aboard a Space Shuttle flight.

John Glenn, the first US astronaut to orbit the Earth, has died in Columbus Ohio, aged 95.

His flight in 1962 was a catch-up for the US, which was beaten by the then Soviet Union, to launch the first man in space – cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, in a 108-minute orbital flight on 12 April 1961.

His flight followed two suborbital flights by Alan Shepard Jr and Gus Grissom.

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Astronaut John Glenn climbs into the Mercury-Atlas 6 spacecraft Friendship 7 during pre-launch checkout procedures in1962. MA-6 was the first time NASA placed an astronaut into orbit.
NASA/Science Source

Glenn was the last surviving member of the group known as the Mercury Seven, the group of military test pilots selected in 1959 by NASA to become America’s first astronauts.  

He began a long career as a pilot in World War 2 and then as a fighter pilot in the Korean War. 

He later served 24 years in the Senate for Ohio.

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Astronaut John Glenn during Mercury-Atlas 6 pre-launch training activities.

Glenn returned to space in the shuttle Discovery at age 77 in 1998, making him the oldest person in orbit.

Glenn’s experiences were among those chronicled in the book and movie The Right Stuff, whose author, Tom Wolfe, called him “the last true national hero America has ever had”.

But Glenn was more modest. “I don’t think of myself that way,” he told the New York Times in 2012.

“I get up each day and have the same problems others have at my age. As far as trying to analyse all the attention I received, I will leave that to others.”

Glenn died at the James Cancer Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, where he had been admitted more than a week earlier.

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Friendship 7 spacecraft launching on top of an Atlas rocket at Cape Canaveral (now Kennedy Space Centre), Florida, on 20 February 1962, carrying John Glenn.

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