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John Glenn was the first American to orbit Earth and third person to orbit the Earth. John Glenn orbited the Earth in Friendship 7 in 1962. In 1998, he became the oldest person ever to fly in space in the twentieth century.

He is a former United States Marine Corps pilot, astronaut and United States senator. John Glenn was a Marine Corps fighter pilot before joining NASA's Mercury program as a member of NASA's original astronaut group. After retiring from NASA, he entered politics as a Democrat and represented Ohio in the United States Senate from 1974 to 1999.

John Glenn Biography

John Herschel Glenn, Jr. was born July 18, 1921 in Cambridge, Ohio, USA. Glenn served in the Marine Corps during World War II and latter in Korea. In 1954 he started work as a test pilot and in 1957 made the first non-stop supersonic flight from Los Angeles to New York. In 1959, he was selected for astronaut training and was back-up pill for the first two Mercury missions.

During his Mercury 6 flight, he became the third American in space and the first person to orbit Earth. After retiring from the space program in 1964, Glenn took up politics and in 1974 was elected Senator in Ohio. In 1988, he became the world's oldest astronaut at age 77 when he flew on a Space Shuttle mission.

John Herschel Glenn Jr. in Friendship 7 (his Mercury 6 capsule) became the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962.  Friendship 7 was launched atop an Atlas rocket on February 20,1962. Glenn made history that day. His flight took him on three orbits of Earth in less than 5 hours.

America's first spaceman, Alan Shepard had performed only a sub-orbital lob in May 1961, after Yuri Gagarin had completed a complete orbit on the first manned spaceflight that April. After Gus Grissom completed another hop out of the atmosphere, the US was eager to show that it too could place a man into a controlled orbit and deliver him safely home. The man they chose, 40 years old John Herschel Glenn Jr, had been disappointed not to the the first American in space , but the clear choice for more technically challenging flight of Friendship 7 as he was the star performer of the Mercury Programme's PR campaign.

The flight of Friendship 7 was delayed several times. The original launch date was 27 January, but this was re-scheduled 13 minutes before launch to 13 February due to adverse weather conditions at the Cape Canaveral launch site. During the delay, improvements were made to Glenn's flight capsule and a minor leak was fixed. Further weather related delayed occurred, delaying the eventual flight to 20 February.

The launch itself experience a brief postponement when a bolt on the door hatch broke but the main engines were ignite at 14.45 UT. Friendship 7 completed there orbits, spending 4 hours 48 minutes in space. Glenn attained a speed of over 7.84 km/second, experiencing a maximum acceleration at launch of 7.7G.

John Glenn took the first photographs of the Earth from space during the third Mercury manned mission.

Friendship 7 splashed down in the Atlantic 1,300km southeast of Bermuda. Its parachutes were spotted at an altitude of 1,500 metros and a range of 9km by the crew of the US destroyer Noa and Glenn was lucked from the ocean twenty minutes later. During the flight an attitude nozzle had become clogged requiring to right the craft manually. On re-entry ground control became alarmed when malfunctioning warning light indicated that Friendship 7's heat-shied had been prematurely jettisoned, possible condemning the craft and its pilot to a ferry death in the upper atmosphere. The outer covering was retained in safe and Glenn could see burning fragments of this flying past his porthole on re-entry. Glenn became an instant celebrity and enjoyed a subsequent career in business became an organic Presbyterian elder and latter a US congressman for his home state of Ohio. He even tried to secure the Democratic nomination for the 1984 US presidential election. In October 1998, 36 years after his fittest space flight he became at 77, the oldest man ever to fly in space, this time aboard the Space shuttle Discovery.

John Glenn received a Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978 and was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1990. On October 29, 1998, he became the oldest person to fly in space, and the only one to fly in both the Mercury and Space Shuttle programs, when at age 77, he flew on Discovery (STS-95).

Did you know?

* Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space.

* Gherman Titov was the second to orbit the Earth

* On March 1, 1999, the Lewis Research Center was officially renamed the NASA John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field after John Glenn (American fighter pilot, astronaut and politician). Within NASA, Glenn is often referred to by the acronym GRC.

Related Books and DVDs:

John Glenn: A Memoir by John Glenn (Author), Nick Taylor (Contributor)

America In Space: NASA's First Fifty Years

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