Fast Facts – John Glenn

Miles Whittam-Seth wrote this article.

  • John Glenn was born in Ohio USA in July 1921.
  • In March 1942, He entered the US Navy Aviation Cadet Program in March 1942 and completed his flight training the following year. He was then commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the US Marine Corps and assigned to VMO-155 flying Corsairs.
  • Glenn served in the Pacific, first at Midway and then the Marshall Islands, where he flew 57 combat missions before returning to the US.
  • He remained in the Marine Corps after the war and served in various flying and staff roles.
  • During the Korean War, Glenn served with VMF-311, flying F9F Panther Jets, carrying out ground attack missions against North Korean targets. He was known as “Magnet Ass” because of the large number of hits his aircraft took from groundfire.
  • Glenn then served on exchange with the USAF’s 25th Fighter Squadron, and during this time succeeded in shooting down three Mig 15’s shortly before the Korean War ended.
  • In 1954 he attended the US Navy’s Test Pilot’s School. Upon graduation Glenn was involved in flight testing various types of fast jets including the F-8 Crusader. In July 1957, he made the first supersonic trans-continental flight across the USA whilst flying a Crusader.
  • Glenn subsequently entered NASA’s Astronaut Recruitment Program and in April 1959 was chosen as one of the Mercury Seven, the first group of US astronauts who would fly in space.
  • On February 20th 1962, Glenn became the first American, and third human to orbit the Earth. While the flight was successful, there had been serious concerns about whether the heatshield on his Mercury capsule would be able to prevent the craft from burning up during re-entry.
  • Glenn left NASA in January 1964 and retired from the Marine Corps in January 1965.
  • He subsequently entered politics as a candidate for the Democratic Party and served in the US Senate representing the state of Ohio, for 24 years between 1974 and 1999.
  • Glenn flew in space again at the age of 77, in October 1998, as a payload specialist on the Shuttle Discovery, becoming the oldest person to orbit the Earth.
  • He passed away in December 2016, the last of the Mercury 7 astronauts.