As a military test pilot in 1957, Glenn broke the transcontinental air speed record, bursting from Los Angeles to New York City in 3 hours, 23 minutes and 8 seconds. His Crusader jet averaged 725 miles per hour.
FIRST AMERICAN TO ORBIT EARTH:
Glenn went into orbit on Friendship 7 on Feb. 20, 1962, but the Soviet Union’s Yuri Gagarin was the first man to orbit Earth and Alan Shephard was the first American in space, on a sub-orbital mission.
IN THE CANYON OF HEROES
A total of 3,474 tons of paper were swept up after Glenn’s ticker tape parade in New York in March of 1962 — more than any parade since the one marking the end of World War II.
TOO IMPORTANT TO FLY?
It has been said that President John F. Kennedy felt he could not risk sending Glenn into space a second time. Said Glenn in a 1995 interview: “Kennedy had indicated to NASA that he would just as soon that I was not assigned to another flight. Now, whether it was because of the impact if I got killed on the second flight would that reflect politically, I never knew.”
A Democrat, Glenn was Ohio’s longest serving senator, serving just a bit more than 24 years until 1999. But that was only after two earlier attempts. In 1964, he had to stop his campaign after he hit his head in a bathtub accident, and he lost the Democratic primary in 1970.
HAT IN THE ULTIMATE RING
Glenn ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 1984 but lost in the primaries to former Vice President Walter Mondale.
OLDEST MAN IN SPACE
Glenn returned to space aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1998 at age 77. He was the subject of experiments on geriatrics and microgravity.
LAST OF HIS KIND:
Glenn was the last surviving member of the original Mercury 7 astronauts. Five hundred forty-six people flew in orbit after Glenn, only two before: Gagarin and Gherman Titov.