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Glenn, John Herschel, Jr.

John Herschel Glenn, Jr., 1921–, American astronaut and politician, b. Cambridge, Ohio. On Feb. 20, 1962, he became the first American and the third person to orbit the earth, circling the globe three times in a vehicle launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. After leaving the space program, Glenn entered Ohio politics and was elected to the U.S. Senate as a Democrat in 1974. Known for his work on military issues, he campaigned unsuccessfully for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1984. In Oct., 1998, Glenn went into orbit again, on a space shuttle mission, to test effects of space on the elderly. In 1999 he retired from the Senate.

See his memoir (with N. Taylor, 1999).

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Glenn, John Herschel, Jr

Glenn, John Herschel, Jr (1921– ) US astronaut. On February 20, 1962, aboard the spacecraft Friendship 7, he became the first person to orbit the Earth. Glenn became a US Senator (Democrat) from Ohio (1974–99). In 1998, Glenn flew his second space mission on the space shuttle Discovery.

http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/PAO/html/glennbio.htm

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Glenn, John Herschel, Jr.

GLENN, John Herschel, Jr.

(b. 18 July 1921 in Cambridge, Ohio), astronaut who piloted the first manned U.S. orbital mission, politician, successful businessman, and oldest human sent into space.

Glenn was born to John Herschel Glenn, Sr., an owner of a successful plumbing supply business, and Clara Sproat, an educator. Glenn, along with his adopted sister, Jean, was raised in New Concord, Ohio. After graduating from New Concord High School (which has since been renamed after him), Glenn pursued a degree in chemistry at Muskingum College, in New Concord. During his years at Muskingum, Glenn earned his private pilot license through a U.S. Navy program. He dropped out of school and joined the military after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. While serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, Glenn earned a B.A. degree in engineering from Muskingum in the early 1960s. In early 1942 Glenn entered the Naval Aviation Cadet Program. In March 1943, following his graduation, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. In April the same year, Glenn married Anna Margaret Castor, his childhood sweetheart; they had two children.

Shortly after his marriage, Glenn was sent to the Pacific theater, where he flew fifty-nine missions and earned various awards. In the early 1950s Glenn would once again find himself flying combat missions, this time in the skies over Korea. After the Korean conflict ended, Glenn served as a military test pilot and flew some of the most sophisticated and fastest jet planes of the day. On 16 July 1957 he piloted an F8U-1 Crusader from Los Angeles to New York, reaching speeds of 726 miles per hour and setting a new transcontinental flight record of just over three hours and twenty-three minutes.

The space race between the United States and the Soviet Union officially began on 4 October 1957, when the Soviets successfully launched the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik, into orbit. In a scramble to avoid falling farther behind in the quest to dominate the sky, the U.S. government initiated an ambitious space program—the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The first phase of the program, known as Project Mercury, was to put a man in orbit around Earth. While this program was still in its organizational stages, Glenn and other volunteers subjected themselves to a selection process of strenuous physical and psychological testing, with the hope of filling one of the seven astronaut positions available with Project Mercury.

In 1959 Glenn and six other military pilots were selected as the first astronauts. The next months were filled with extensive physical training at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and at the Missile Test Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The astronauts studied astronomy, astronautics, astrophysics, meteorology, geography, and aviation biology, and spent numerous hours in simulation machines, in which they were exposed to various training exercises preparing them for space flight. Additionally, each astronaut specialized in one particular aspect of the Mercury Project. Glenn was responsible for designing the layout of the cockpit, the location of control panels, and the development of necessary instrumentation needed for orbital flight.

Prior to his own flight in space, Glenn suffered two major disappointments regarding his involvement in the space program. First, he was not chosen for the first two U.S. suborbital flights into space. This distinction went to Alan Shepard (5 May 1961) and Virgil Grissom (21 July 1961). Next, Glenn shared in the frustrations of all those involved in the Mercury Project when they learned that the Soviets had already placed a man in orbit. On 12 April 1961 Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person to successfully orbit Earth. However, Glenn was pleased to learn that NASA had decided to launch its own manned orbital flight in December of the same year and that he was scheduled as pilot.

After nearly a dozen delays due to weather conditions and technical problems, Glenn finally blasted off into space on 20 February 1962 at 9:47 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. The cramped capsule Friendship 7 orbited Earth three times in just over four hours and fifty-five minutes. There were two problems during the flight, both of which were perceived as potentially life threatening. The first problem was that the thrusters that kept the capsule from drifting off its orbital course malfunctioned. Glenn solved this problem by manually adjusting the position of Friendship 7. However, piloting the ship manually was tricky because pilot errors could leave the capsule without enough fuel to safely reenter Earth's atmosphere. The second problem resulted from faulty warning signals emitted from a sensor, showing that the capsule's heat shield was loose. Later investigations confirmed that the shield was firmly attached to the ship; however, ground control had no way of knowing whether or not the warning sensor was working properly. Ground control did know that without the heat shield in place, the spacecraft would inevitably burn up in Earth's atmosphere on reentry. To counter this problem, Glenn was ordered not to jettison the retro-rocket pack that was strapped to the bottom of the capsule beside the heat shield, in an effort to keep the shield stabilized. In the end the mission was a success, and Glenn's ship splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean intact. Instantly, Glenn became an American hero, and the U.S. public's confidence in the space program was renewed.

Following his successful mission, Glenn was eager to return to space and participate in NASA's Apollo program, the effort to send a man to the Moon. However, unknowingly to Glenn at the time, President John F. Kennedy had sent word to top NASA officials that he did not want Glenn to go back to space. Apparently, Kennedy felt Glenn was too important a hero to the American people to risk being killed in another space flight. Frustrated by not getting the opportunity to return to space, Glenn resigned from the space program in January 1964 and initiated the paperwork for retiring from the marines. His retirement became official in January 1965.

In the same year he retired from NASA, Glenn became interested in pursuing a political career. He entered the Ohio Democratic primary against the incumbent senator Stephen M. Young. However, Glenn had to withdraw from the race after he fell in his bathroom and severely injured his inner ear. After several months of recovery, Glenn entered the private sector, becoming a top executive with the soft-drink company Royal Crown Cola. He also sat on the board of directors of the Questor Corporation, invested in Holiday Inn franchises, and hosted a television documentary series.

Glenn continued to prosper in the decades following the 1960s. He became the first four-term senator from Ohio, winning his first election in 1974, and subsequent elections in 1980, 1986, and 1992. Glenn did not limit his aspirations to the U.S. Senate. He unsuccessfully attempted to earn the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 1984, but was defeated by Walter Mondale. His most crowning achievement, however, came in October 1998, when Glenn went back to space on shuttle flight STS-95 Discovery, making him the oldest human ever to be sent to space.

Numerous works have been written about Glenn's life and accomplishments. For the best single-volume account of Glenn's public and private life, see his autobiography, John Glenn: A Memoir (1999), written with Nick Taylor. Also see Frank Van Riper, Glenn: The Astronaut Who Would Be President (1983), and Peter N. Carroll, Famous in America: The Passion to Succeed (1985). For a closer examination of the Mercury Project and Glenn's involvement in it, see We Seven, by the Astronauts Themselves: M. Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper, John H. Glenn, Virgil I. Grissom, Walter M. Schirra, Alan B. Shepard, Donald K. Slayton (1962), and Tom Wolfe, The Right Stuff (1979). For the U.S. response to Glenn's Mercury-Atlas 6 orbital flight, see Glenn, Letters to John Glenn: With Comments by J. H. Glenn, Jr. (1964).

Kenneth Wayne Howell

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