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John Herschel Glenn Jr Biography

Biography | 7-14 yrs | Interactive

Who is John Herschel Glenn Jr?

John Herschel Glenn Jr, was a military test pilot, selected by NASA for its maiden manned space flight. Part of the Mercury Seven Project, he was a back up to the first two Americans, Alan Shepard and Virgil ‘Gus’ Grissom in space.

John Glenn is remembered as the first American to orbit the earth, circling it three times. At this time, the United States and the USSR were in a race with space programs and Yuri Gagarin from Russia was the first man to orbit the earth.

Early Years – John Herschel Glenn Jr

He was born on 18th July, 1921, in Cambridge, Ohio, to John Glenn, Sr. and Clara Teresa. Glenn studied Science at the Muskingum College, Ohio, and soon after that received his private pilot license in 1941.

In 1942, Glenn joined the United States Navy as a pilot. Thereafter, he switched to the United States Marine Corps. He also served as a fighter pilot in World War II and flew many missions over the Pacific Ocean. In 1943, Glenn married his childhood lady love, Anna Margaret Castor. The couple had two children, Carolyn and John David.

Career in the US Marines

Glenn stayed in the Marines after the war. On July 16, 1957, Glenn set an amazing transcontinental air speed record. He flew a F8U-1 Crusader from NAS Los Alamitos to Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, in 3 hours, 23 minutes, and 8.4 seconds. Glenn was awarded his fifth Distinguished Flying Cross for this mission.

First Man to Orbit Earth Three Times!

In 1958, Glenn joined Project Mercury of NASA. He was the oldest of the seven pilots selected. His task was to fly a Mercury spacecraft called ‘Friendship-7’. His first words when reaching orbit were ‘Zero G and I feel fine.’ He retired from NASA after his flight, and decided to try his luck in politics. He won his first general election in 1974. He was re-elected to the Senate in 1980. Glenn was a popular senator and was re-elected several more times.

Oldest Space Traveller!

In 1998, Glenn went into space again onboard the Space Shuttle Discovery at the age of 77, making him the oldest man to go into space!


He retired from the Senate in 1999. In 2012, Glenn was given the Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.


He died at a medical centre after suffering from a ‘serious medical condition’ in Columbus in December 8th, 2016. He was 95 years old at the time of his death.

But he will always be remembered as the first American to orbit space!

3 Interesting facts about John Herschel Glenn Jr

  1. In the Korean War, John Glenn shot down three enemy planes and flew in 63 combat missions.
  2. The only US Senator to have gone into space.
  3. The nickname Friendship-7 was given to the Mercury spacecraft by John Glenn.

Famous quotes by John Herschel Glenn Jr

  • ‘I don’t know what you can say about a day when you see four beautiful sunsets. This is a little unusual, I think’, Glenn said this during his first orbit.
  • ‘To look out at this kind of creation out here and not believe in God is to me impossible.’
  • ‘To me, there is no greater calling, if I can inspire young people to dedicate themselves to the good of mankind, I’ve accomplished something.’
  • ‘We are more fulfilled when we are involved in something bigger than ourselves.’