How much do you know about John Glenn? Check out the facts on this American hero.

Ohio-born John Glenn was in college when World War II started. He abandoned his studies to enter the Naval Aviation Cadet Program in 1942, and a year later was deployed as a Marine fighter pilot in the Pacific front. By the war’s end he had flown 59 combat missions in the South Pacific.

    Glenn remained in the Marines, both as a test pilot and a trainer of other pilots, until he was called up as a fighter pilot in the Korean War. During this conflict, from 1950 to 1953, Glenn flew 90 missions. His total of 149 missions in two wars earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross six times.

    More history was made by this remarkable man in 1957, when he made the first supersonic transcontinental flight across the United States. He set a speed record flying from Los Angeles to New York during “Project Bullet,” coast to coast in three hours and 23 minutes.

    All of Glenn’s achievements contributed to his selection by NASA to join the first group of astronauts in 1959, a group dubbed the “Mercury Seven.” Glenn wasn’t the first American in space – that honor went to his fellow astronaut Alan Shepard in May of 1961, followed by Gus Grissom in July of that year. But both of these missions were suborbital space flights, meaning their crafts reached outer space but did not orbit the Earth. That honor belongs to John Glenn.

    In February, 1962, Glenn was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard a Mercury spacecraft, the “Friendship 7.”    He traveled at 17,500 miles per hour (28,160 km/hr), 160 miles (258 km) above Earth, in a tiny capsule built for one man, a craft just 9 feet long (2.74 m), and 6 feet (1.83 m) across at its base.

    Glenn orbited Earth three times during a flight that lasted 4 hours, 55 minutes, and 23 seconds before splashing down about 800 miles (1,287 km) southeast of Bermuda, near Grand Turk Island. The spacecraft can be seen at the National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, VA.

Following his historic flight, Glenn remained as an advisor to NASA until 1964. On the day after his resignation, he entered politics at age 43, running in the Ohio Democratic primary for U.S. Senator. However, five weeks after his announcement, he suffered a fall, resulting in a concussion and inner ear injury that forced him to resign from the race. After his full recovery, he took a job in the business world as an executive for Royal Crown Cola.

Glenn’s interest in politics wasn’t over. In 1970, he ran for the Senate again, but was narrowly defeated in a 51% to 49% margin by Howard Metzenbaum. Four years later, in his third Senate run, Glenn emerged the victor, and remained the Ohio Senator for the next 25 years.   

    And Glenn’s history-making wasn’t over! In 1998, at the age of 77, he returned to space aboard the space shuttle “Discovery,” the oldest person to enter space. It was a nine-day mission with 134 orbits of Earth, with one of the goals to study the effects of space on an elderly person.

    When John Glenn died in 2017 at age 95, he was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on his 74th wedding anniversary. He was survived by his wife Annie, whom he had known since he was a toddler.