The string of celebrity deaths continues with the passing of one of America’s earliest space heroes, John Glenn. Colonel Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth, less than a year after Yuri Gagarin became the first human to reach “outer space”.
A decorated Marine Corps pilot that served in both WWII and the Korean Conflict, Glenn became a Navy test pilot and nearly lost his life during a decompression accident flying the FJ-3 Fury. Undeterred, he got back in the cockpit and in 1957 completed the first recorded supersonic transcontinental flight, flying an F8U Crusader from Los Alamitos AAF (just down the street from me) to New York City in under 3.5 hours.
Realizing that he would likely not be chosen for a lunar landing, Glenn resigned from NASA in 1964 and immediately ran for senator of Ohio. As a senatorial candidate, he gave one of the most rousing political speeches ever delivered by a modern candidate–denouncing his opponent’s assertions that he “never worked” because he was in the military.
John Glenn was such a badass, that when he was 77 years old, he became the oldest astronaut he volunteered to go back into space on the shuttle Discovery as a human guinea pig so NASA could study the effects of space travel on elderly humans.