John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, died Thursday at age 95.
He went on to become a US Senator for Ohio, and returned to space in 1998 as the oldest astronaut ever at the age of 77.
“We are saddened by the loss of Sen. John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth. A true American hero. Godspeed, John Glenn. Ad astra,” NASA tweeted, ending with the Latin phrase meaning “through hardships to the stars.”
The requirements for the job of “first astronaut to orbit the Earth” were steep. According to NASA: “They had to be test pilot school graduates in excellent physical shape, less than 40 years old, shorter than 5 feet 11 inches, qualified jet pilots, and they had to have at least 1,500 hours flying time and bachelors’ degrees in engineering. Glenn met all the requirements.”
In 1959, NASA selected Glenn as one of the “Mercury Seven,” an elite group of astronauts who would achieve many of the US firsts in space. In May 1961, Alan B. Shepard, Jr. became the first American in space.
And, a year later on February 20, 1962, Glenn became the second — becoming the first American to orbit the globe. During his nearly five-hour flight, he circled the Earth three times, reaching speeds of more than 17,000 miles per hour before successfully splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean.
After Glenn’s historic flight, the nation celebrated with a ticker-tape parade in New York City.
Watch the video of the original broadcast of Glenn’s flight:
Here’s some more footage from NASA, too:
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