Explorers Heroes

John Glenn

by Jeff Trussell

There are some glaring differences between the world of 1962 and 1998. For one thing, in 1962 there were three billion fewer of us on the planet. In 1998, the population swelled and you could pick up a 400 MHz speed demon for a little over two grand. By 2000, our planet is overflowing and 54 million American households have at least one computer.

Astronaut John Glenn
NASA / [Public Domain] via U.S. Dept. of Defense

But one thing hasn't changed between then and now. That's the small, Marine Corps-trained satellite which spins above us, quite possibly as you are reading this, trailing the words, "God Speed, John Glenn," just as it did over 30 years ago.

John Herschel Glenn, Jr. was born on July 18, 1921, in Cambridge, Ohio. He graduated from what is now known as John Glenn High School in nearby New Concord. He joined the Marine Corps in 1943 and served in combat in the South Pacific. Glenn again served combat duty in the Korean conflict. After 149 missions in two wars, he received many honors, including the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with 18 clusters.

In 1959, John Glenn was selected to be one of the first seven astronauts in the U.S. space program. Three years later on February 20, 1962, he made history as the first American to orbit the earth, completing three orbits in a five-hour flight, for which he received the Space Congressional Medal of Honor.

After retiring from the Marine Corps in 1965, he took an active part in politics and early environmental protection efforts in Ohio while pursuing a career as an executive with Royal Crown International.

Glenn won his Ohio Senate seat in 1974 and was re-elected in 1980 with the largest margin in Ohio history. He returned to the Senate for a third term in 1986, again winning with a substantial majority. In 1992, John Glenn again made history by being the first popularly elected Senator from Ohio to win four consecutive terms.

Glenn received Presidential Medal of Freedom
Pete Souza / [Public Domain] via Wikimedia

Fast forward to 1997. A dispirited world whose heroes and public figures repeatedly disappointed them thrilled to the announcement that John Glenn would return to space. He was 77 years old! Back in 1962, Glenn rode in a rickety sardine can called "Friendship 7," ostensibly, to see if America could spy on the Communists from outer space. In 1998, Senator Glenn was a passenger on the sleek, state-of-the-art Space Shuttle Discovery, which had 10 times the windows and whose mission was to study the effects of space flight and weightlessness on the elderly.

So, maybe things haven't really changed. Okay, the "Red Threat" has gone the way of the Portuguese empire and Bart Simpson has replaced "The Beav" as America's favorite pre-adolescent. And maybe we live in cyberspace more than before.

But one thing remains the same. The Earth is a much better place due, in part, to the explorations of one of its finest citizens, Senator John H. Glenn.

Page created on 6/4/2014 11:29:37 AM

Last edited 7/15/2020 1:48:22 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

NASA - Profile of John Glenn
NASA - Who Was John Glenn?
NASA - Human Space Flight - A record of achievement

Extra Info

Haz clic aquí para leer la historia sobre John Glenn en español


Kathleen from Bear Lake, MI

My hero is: John Glenn. He's my hero because a man, or any person for that matter, has to have guts to go into outer space and orbit Earth, come back, and then go again some years later.

M. Sarkisyan from Van Nuys, California

My hero is: John Glenn. He is my hero because he is an astronaut and at age 77 wants to go into outer space again. A long time ago, at the time of the Korean War, he was sent to fly an F9F. It was very important, so when his plane developed trouble while he was flying he kept going, because he knew it had to be done, and he totally risked his life.

Mike Rowe from Walnut, CA

My hero is: John Glenn. He was the first American to orbit the Earth and that took a lot of guts. He didn't know what to expect up there or what would happen all the way up above the Earth. All the training in the world cannot tell you what to expect in a strange and new world, or above the world. This is a great site. Thanks.

Related Books