Astronaut John Glenn smiles during a training for his Feb. 20, 1962, space flight aboard the NASA Mercury capsule Friendship 7, in which he became the first American to orbit the Earth.
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Astronaut and former U.S. Sen. John Glenn, who in 1962 became the first American to orbit Earth, died Thursday at the age of 95.

Glenn was surrounded by his family and his wife of 73 years, Annie, when he passed away at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, the Columbus Dispatch reports.


Glenn was born in Cambridge, Ohio, on July 18, 1921, to a father who was a plumber and a mother who was a teacher. He was raised 10 miles away in New Concord, Ohio, and had aspirations to be a medical doctor, but World War II changed that path. He left Muskingum College shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor to enlist in the Marine Corps.

When World War II ended, Glenn became a flight instructor in both Texas and Virginia. He applied for combat duty when the Korean War broke out, and flew 90 missions.

After returning from Korea, Glenn became a test pilot, and he set a coast-to-coast record in 1957 by piloting a Navy jet fighter from California to New York in three hours and 23 minutes.

In 1959 Glenn was selected as one of the country’s first seven astronauts and became part of a historic group that was immortalized in the 1979 Tom Wolfe book The Right Stuff, which was the basis for the movie of the same name.


Glenn successfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 1974, where he served until 1998. In that year he once again orbited Earth with six other astronauts aboard the Discovery.

Glenn’s body will lie in state at the Ohio Statehouse for a day, and a public memorial service in his honor will take place at the Ohio State University. He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in a private service.


“John Glenn is, and always will be, Ohio’s ultimate hometown hero, and his passing today is an occasion for all of us to grieve," Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich said. "As we bow our heads and share our grief with his beloved wife, Annie, we must also turn to the skies, to salute his remarkable journeys and his long years of service to our state and nation.

"Though he soared deep into space and to the heights of Capitol Hill, his heart never strayed from his steadfast Ohio roots. Godspeed, John Glenn!" Kasich said.


Read more at the Columbus Dispatch.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Glenn was the first man to orbit Earth. He was, in fact, the first American to orbit Earth.