John Glenn, an American astronaut, national political figure for 24 years in the Senate died on Thursday in Columbus, Ohio. He was 95 years old.
His death was announced via Twitter by Gov. John Kasich of Ohio.
Mr. Glenn had received heart-valve replacement surgery in 2014 and survived a stroke. He was recently hospitalized at the James Cancer Center at the Ohio State University in Columbus.
On February 20, 1962, John Glenn joined an elite group of American pilots to complete what seemed like an insurmountable task. Mr. Glenn was a war tested veteran who was about to step into the unknown at a time in American history where tension was high and success was needed. His efforts to bring the United States into the space-age and inspire the masses reignited the can-do attitude of our country.
With the Russians seemingly way out in front for the space race, American hearts had sunken low. Two Russians, Yuri A. Gagarin and Gherman S. Titov, had already orbited Earth the year before, darkening the accomplishment of two Americans, Alan B. Shepard and Virgil I. Grissom, who had been launched in separate missions only to the fringes of space.
After weeks of delays, the rocket went into space and just three short orbits around the Earth later, John Glenn had made history. Mr. Glenn safely returned to Earth with a charismatic smile, bands played, people cheered and a new faith in American abilities had dawned.
In his political history of the space age, “…The Heavens and the Earth,” the author Walter A. McDougall described Mr. Glenn’s space mission as a “national catharsis unparalleled.”
“It seemed that he had given Americans back their self-respect,” Mr. McDougall added, “and more than that — it seemed Americans dared again to hope.”
I am saddened by the passing of Mr. John Glenn, someone I would consider an American hero. People like Mr. Glenn are the ones who remind America to believe in ourselves, challenge what we know as a species, and push the envelope of what we are capable of accomplishing.