John Glenn, first US astronaut to orbit Earth, dies aged 95

John Glenn, first US astronaut to orbit Earth, dies aged 95

John Glenn, a former astronaut and US senator for almost quarter of a century, has died in Ohio aged 95.

 

Glenn died on Thursday afternoon at the James cancer hospital in Columbus, according to Hank Wilson of the John Glenn School of Public Affairs. Ohio governor John Kasich also confirmed the news on Twitter.

 

An Ohio State University spokesman had announced on Wednesday that Glenn had been admitted to the hospital more than a week earlier. However, his illness was not disclosed and the spokesman had cautioned that it might not be cancer.

 

Glenn became a national hero in 1962 when he became the first American to orbit the Earth, one year after the Soviet Union had sent their own man into orbit, Yuri Gagarin. Glenn was the third US astronaut in space and the first American in orbit, circling the Earth three times.

 

He received a distinguished service medal from then-president John F Kennedy upon his return and was greeted by millions for a ticker-tape parade in New York City.

 

“It still seems so vivid to me,” Glenn said in a 2012 interview with the Associated Press on the 50th anniversary of the flight. “I still can sort of pseudo-feel some of those same sensations I had back in those days during launch and all.”

 

Condolences came from politicians across the aisle, celebrities, Nasa and more, reflecting a deep and widespread reverence for Glenn. President-elect Donald Trump called Glenn a hero.

 

“To me he was a great American hero,” he told pool reporters on Thursday, adding that he had met him twice.

 

In a statement, president Barack Obama said the nation had lost an icon in Glenn.

 

“With John’s passing, our nation has lost an icon and Michelle and I have lost a friend,” the statement said. “The last of America’s first astronauts has left us, but propelled by their example we know that our future here on Earth compels us to keep reaching for the heavens. On behalf of a grateful nation, Godspeed, John Glenn.”