John Glenn, First Man to Achieve Space Orbit and Former Ohio Senator, Dies

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John Herschel Glenn, Jr., the first NASA Astronaut to achieve space orbit and former U.S. Senator, has passed away. No official cause of death has been released although at age 95 natural causes and age related complications are expected.

Glenn led an exemplary life of distinguished and honorable service to his nation and the world realizing achievements for which there were no precedent. He believed in humanity, the strength of the team, and the need to continue service.

A Korean War Veteran, Glenn was one of seven pilots chosen from across all military branches to be the first NASA astronauts to achieve space flight. The group, known as the Mercury Seven, were challenged with learning the dynamics of how to fly in space.

After many failed attempts by NASA Glenn launched, on February 20, 1962, and became the first American to achieve space orbit completing three of seven scheduled earth orbits. His flight was interrupted by a heat shield warning light disruption that resulted in NASA cancelling the remainder of the flight.

For a moment, time stood still as communications between the NASA and Glenn ceased while he reentered the earth's atmosphere. The heat of reentry, without the heat shield, could have killed him. He successfully splashed down in off the coast of Florida.

Glenn's Mission successfully launched the United States into the Space Flight program with the Moon as the next frontier. On February 23, 1962 President John F. Kennedy awarded Glenn the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. He along with the other Mercury 7 crew received a ticker tape parade in the canyons of New York City, and gained fame and celebrity status. He became a National Hero in the Camelot generation.  

On the advice of Robert F. Kennedy, Glenn announced his intentions to run for U.S. Senate. An accident suspended those early hopes and he withdrew from the 1964 Senatorial race.  Then ten years later, after fully recovering from the bathroom slip and fall, Glenn held to the words of the late Robert F. Kennedy, whom he had seen assassinated and served as pallbearer, and tackled the challenge of the Senatorial seat in Ohio.

As former military, Glenn was astonished by the casualness of Howard Metzenbaum's treatment of Vietnam Veterans, whom the nation wanted to brush under the carpet as the Southeast Asian conflict resulted in no victory for America and left a generation, those who survived and those who didn't, in torment.

Glenn, historians have concluded, won the 1974 primary largely on the strength of his Gold Star Mother's Speech. He challenged his opponent, Howard Metzenbaum, who explained Vietnam Veterans didn't hold jobs and should be excluded from benefits "to look those men with mangled bodies in the eyes and tell them they didn't hold a job. You go with me to any Gold Star mother and you look her in the eye and tell her that her son did not hold a job." 

The Gold Star Mother's Speech spoke directly to the Mother's of the more than 58,000 soldiers who returned him from Vietnam in body bags. The Vietnam Veterans were served well by Glenn and repaid the senate hopeful with a enormous ten percent margin victory at the polls.  Glenn remained a Senator, a Democrat from Ohio, until 1999.

Neil Armstrong, First Man to Walk on the Moon, Dies

Glenn was a man of principal even while caught up in a senatorial scandal along with Arizona Senator John McCain, who were the only two senators not to be prosecuted from the John Keating Banking scandal.

Glenn returned to NASA receiving the call to duty in 1998 serving as a payload specialist on the Space Shuttle Discovery. He became the oldest person to ever orbit the earth and achieve space flight.

The former Senator will be interned at Arlington National Cemetery after lying in State at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. A memorial service is planned at the Ohio State University Mershon Auditorium.

Upon his death President Barack Obama said of Glenn, "the first American to orbit the Earth, reminded is that with courage and a spirit of discovery there's no limit to the heights we can reach together." Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Elect Donald Trump also released tributes as did many others.

Glenn is a decorated military veteran, a distinguished senator, a dedicated public servant and has achieved excellence in each of these areas not without setbacks along the way, he has shown the set back is only the test to determine how badly we desire the dream.  

His life and accomplishments have been the subject of books, films, music. He name is set in granite on University buildings, at Ohio State University and a Wright State University. His hometown renamed the high school, The John Glenn High School, six additional high school through the United States have been renamed in his honor. Military and local police and fire departments have also renamed elements of their departments honoring the Astronaut and Senator.

Famed Musician, producer and icon Quincy Jones presented Glenn and Apollo Commander Neil Armstrong with platinum copies of "Fly Me To The Moon from the Jones produced "It Might As Well be Swing."  

Glenn is survived by his wife of 73 years, Anna Margaret Castor Glenn, his children, and grandchildren.

Sources: Wikipedia

Images: U.S. Senate and NASA and used with permission

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