Former senator and astronaut John Glenn dies at 95

John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, dies at the age of 95 from an undisclosed illness.

Arutz Sheva Staff,

John Glenn
John Glenn

John Glenn, a former United States senator and the first American to orbit the Earth, died on Thursday at the age of 95, reports CNN.

It was announced Wednesday that Glenn had been hospitalized "more than a week ago," Ohio State University spokesman Hank Wilson said on Thursday. He was at The James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State University, but his illness was not disclosed.

Glenn was born on July 18, 1921, in Cambridge, Ohio. During World War II, he enlisted in the Naval Aviation Cadet Program in 1942 and became a pilot for the Marines a year later. Glenn completed nearly 150 combat missions in World War II and the Korean War.

He volunteered when NASA requested pilots for its suborbital and orbital programs, and in 1959 he and six others -- Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra, Gordon Cooper and Deke Slayton -- were selected as the first astronauts, known as the "Mercury 7." Glenn was the last living member of the group.

Glenn made history in 1962 when he completed a three-orbit flight in a space capsule dubbed Friendship 7. He later served for nearly a quarter-century as a U.S. senator in the state of Ohio.

In 1998, he returned to space at age 77, becoming the oldest person to ever do so.

Shortly after his resignation from NASA, Glenn announced he would run for the Democratic ticket for a U.S. Senate seat in 1964. His political career was sidelined for a few years when an injury forced him to withdraw from the campaign, and after a failed bid for a Senate seat in 1970, Glenn won in 1974, beginning a 24-year career representing Ohio on Capitol Hill.

He played a key role in weapons control, authoring the Nuclear Nonproliferation Act of 1978, which prohibited the sale of nuclear equipment to nations that currently have none.

President Barack Obama released a statement Thursday afternoon to honor Glenn.

"When John Glenn blasted off from Cape Canaveral atop an Atlas rocket in 1962, he lifted the hopes of a nation. And when his Friendship 7 spacecraft splashed down a few hours later, the first American to orbit the Earth reminded us that with courage and a spirit of discovery there's no limit to the heights we can reach together.

"With John's passing, our nation has lost an icon and Michelle and I have lost a friend. John spent his life breaking barriers, from defending our freedom as a decorated Marine Corps fighter pilot in World War II and Korea, to setting a transcontinental speed record, to becoming, at age 77, the oldest human to touch the stars. John always had the right stuff, inspiring generations of scientists, engineers and astronauts who will take us to Mars and beyond--not just to visit, but to stay.

"Today, the people of Ohio remember a devoted public servant who represented his fellow Buckeyes in the U.S. Senate for a quarter century and who fought to keep America a leader in science and technology. Our thoughts are with his beloved wife Annie, their children John and Carolyn and the entire Glenn family. 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."

President-elect Donald Trump eulogized Glenn in a statement on Twitter.

“Today we lost a great pioneer of air and space in John Glenn. He was a hero and inspired generations of future explorers. He will be missed,” wrote Trump.

Glenn is survived by his wife, Annie; his two children, John David and Carolyn Ann (Lyn); and two grandchildren.