NASA astronaut John Glenn wore many hats during his long life, one of which was a space helmet. Glenn, famed for being the first American to orbit Earth, lead a full life until his death on Dec. 8, 2016. Thursday he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia after a procession and private ceremony for his family.
A look back at Glenn’s life shows just how accomplished he really was.
Before becoming an astronaut Glenn fought in WWII and became a marine pilot who trained other pilots. He also served in the Korean War as an airplane test pilot. In 1957, he set a speed record, flying from Los Angeles to New York in less than three and a half hours.
John Glenn NASA Mission Photos
Glenn was a member of the “Mercury Seven,” the first group of astronauts NASA ever selected in 1959. Glenn is in the front row, second from the right, between Donald K. Deke Slayton and Scott Carpenter. The seven of them piloted the Mercury missions.
In 1962, Glenn made his trip around the Earth in the “Friendship 7,” his spacecraft, in about five hours. He made history as the first American to orbit Earth. Friendship 7 is on display at the National Air and Space museum in Washington, D.C.
The rocket that carried Glenn and his spacecraft to space took off from Cape Canaveral on the morning of Feb. 20, 1962.
The automatic control system in Glenn’s craft failed, but his training had prepared him to manually control the spacecraft and orbit and land safely. While in space, he took photos of the Earth from above. His time in space helped NASA experts learn more about the final frontier, but what it does to the human body, vital information for extending the amount of time humans could spend in space.
During flight the heat shield on Friendship 7 became loose and the possibility that the craft would burn up upon re-entry became a concern. Glenn left the retrorocket pack in place to help steady the heat shield in that hopes that it would be enough to protect the craft, and him. While re-entering Earth’s atmosphere the rocketpack burned up and flew past Glenn’s window.
Once Glenn left NASA after his mission, he went on to serve as a United States Senator for his home state of Ohio. He became a Senator in 1974 and a 25 year long career in government before returning to space.
In 1998 Glenn returned to space, this time to help NASA learn more about what space travel does to the aging body. Glenn was 77 at the time, the oldest person to ever travel to space and he went aboard the Discovery shuttle, he spent nine days in space during this second mission.
In 2012 Glenn was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. President Barack Obama awarded Glenn the medal for his accomplishments as a Marine Corps pilot, an astronaut and a U.S. Senator.
Glenn died on Dec. 8, 2016 at the age of 95. His wife, Annie Glenn, and children Carolyn Ann Glenn and John David Glenn remembered him and the spectacular life he lived at his burial Thursday morning.