John Glenn, the first American that orbited space almost 55 years ago, died this Thursday at 91 years-old at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.

Glenn was 95 years-old. He was hospitalized at the James Cancer Center recently, although representatives from Ohio established that Mr. Glenn entering the medical facility didn’t mean that he suffered the Cancer disease. He went through a heart-valve replacement surgery two years ago and had a stroke in December of 2014.

John Glenn was called to serve in North China and Guam, around the year 1948.

The former U.S. Senator was admitted to the James Cancer Center last week, an Ohio University spokesman told reporters. He said that there was not any particular medical reason known that explained the hospitalization of Mr. Glenn. Officials from the Ohio State University announced Glenn´s death this Thursday and didn’t clarify the cause of death.

President Obama published a statement commemorating the life of this fantastic astronaut:

“With John’s passing, our nation has lost an icon and Michelle and I have lost a friend. 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.” Obama said in the statement released this Friday by the White House Press Office.

John Glenn: an American Hero and a public server

In the 60´s decade, the United States and the Soviet Union were fighting the most intense dispute known in the Cold War. The Space Race was a matter of great importance and in 1961, the European country successfully won the first round, when they sent Yuri A. Gagarin and Gherman S. Titov to space. They represented the first human beings to orbit the planet Earth.

One year later, the country was passing through a moment of full anxiousness, as the people wondered why the American technology was being defeated by the Russians. However, on February 20 of 1962, Glenn starred in one of the most triumphant flights in NASA´s history.

The mission itself wasn’t a complex one, technically speaking. It consisted in a three-orbit flight around Earth and lasted only 5 hours. No matter the difficulty, Glenn piloted successfully the “Friendship 7” and came back home as a national hero like no one else.

In this Feb. 20, 1962, file photo, astronaut John Glenn sits next to the “Friendship 7” space capsule atop an Atlas rocket at Cape Canaveral, Fla., during preparations for his flight which made him the first American to orbit the Earth. Image Credit: Military Times

This spacecraft was one of the space capsules specially made for the Project Mercury that included the participation of other seven astronauts. Alongside Glenn, there was Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, Gordon Cooper, Scott Carpenter, Walter Schirra and Donald Slayton. Before Glenn´s death yesterday, he was the only survivor of this terrific group of astronauts.

After Glenn´s feat, President John F. Kennedy said that he was a valuable hero and his life must not be in danger anymore. A short time after this presidential advice, Glenn resigned his position at the space corps and started his own personal business. He also was committed to begin his political career with the Democratic Party.

In 1974, ten years after he left NASA, he entered the U.S. Senate as Senator from the state of Ohio. He served there for four full terms, being Chair of Senate from 1987 to 1995.

He even ran for the candidature for President from the Democratic Party in 1984, but he lost the race to Walter Mondale. Mondale was later defeated by the famous “Reagan´s landslide”.

The piloting of the “Friendship 7” of the Project Mercury mission wasn’t the only time Glenn had flown for the U.S. services. Before he entered the astronaut corps in the late-fifties, Glenn was part of the U.S. Army Air Corps. He left college after the Pearl Harbor attack and join the force to serve his country. However, he was never assigned to combat in any mission.

He also was an honored member of the U.S. Marine Corps, after his remarkable performance in the Korean War. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1957 after he completed the completed the first supersonic transcontinental flight in a Vought F8U-3P Crusader.

Glenn, the oldest person to travel to space

36 years after the “Friendship 7” mission was completed by Glenn and his colleagues, he was more than ready to return to space one more time. Despite all the criticism the mission suffered, on October 29 of 1998 Glenn was able to do one final orbit and became the oldest person ever to travel to space.

The main critics included the bad spending of national funds and even that the mission could be in danger just with the presence of Glenn, who at the time was 77 years-old. However, when te space capsule landed, Cape Canaveral along with the entire country was full of joy and inspiration as people celebrated another feat of this national hero.

“John always had the right stuff,  inspiring generations of scientists, engineers and astronauts who will take us to Mars and beyond  not just to visit, but to stay,” President Obama stated this Thursday, as he paid tribute to the memory of Glenn.


Source: CNN