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John Glenn, First American To Orbit Earth, Dies

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The first American to orbit the Earth died on Dec. 8. Former Marine pilot-turn-astronaut John Glenn was 95.

“John Glenn is, and always will be, Ohio’s ultimate hometown hero, and his passing today is an occasion for all of us to grieve," Ohio Gov. John Kasich said, according to the Columbus Dispatch. "As we bow our heads and share our grief with his beloved wife, Annie, we must also turn to the skies, to salute his remarkable journeys and his long years of service to our state and nation. Though he soared deep into space and to the heights of Capitol Hill, his heart never strayed from his steadfast Ohio roots. Godspeed, John Glenn!"

Glenn is survived by his wife of 73 years, Annie Glenn. He died at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio.

In 1962, Glenn first orbited the Earth. In 1998, at age 77, he became the oldest man in space when he joined the crew of the space shuttle Discovery.

In 1974, Glenn was elected to the U.S. Senate as a Democratic representative of Ohio. During the 1984, he unsuccessfully campaigned to become the Democratic presidential candidate, but lost to Sen. Walter Mondale of Minnesota, according to NPR.

In 1989, during his third of four terms as a senator, Glenn was embroiled in the Keating Five scandal that tied him and four other U.S. Senators to Charles Keating, the president of a California Savings and Loan bank. The Keating Five were accused of corruption and interfering with federal regulations on behalf of Keating. Glenn was ultimate cleared of the charges by the Senate Ethics Committee.

After his return to space in 1998, Glenn continued to lobby for NASA and pioneering research. In 2011, he spoke to the Smithsonian Forum.

"The average person [was] better educated ... back years ago than most people in the world. And then we put more into basic research and learned the new things first," he said. "That little combination is just as true today. If we lose that edge in research and education, we won't be a leading nation in the world. It's that simple."

President Barack Obama eulogized Glenn’s spirit and accomplishments.

"John always had the right stuff, inspiring generations of scientists, engineers and astronauts,” the president said. “...On behalf of a grateful nation, Godspeed, John Glenn."

Sources: Columbus Dispatch, NPR / Photo Credit: Scattered1/Flickr

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