American space legend John Glenn dead at 95


By Tim Clary and Kerry Sheridan, AFP

COLUMBUS — John Glenn, who made history twice as the first American to orbit Earth and the first senior citizen to venture into space, died Thursday at the age of 95. Glenn became a symbol of strength and the nation’s pioneering spirit, drawing admirers from all walks of life over a long career in the military, then NASA, and the U.S. Senate. He was chosen along with six other military pilots as part of the “Original Seven,” the very first class of U.S. astronauts in 1959 whose saga was recounted in the classic movie “The Right Stuff.” The U.S. space agency NASA was among the first to pay tribute to the legendary astronaut who went on to serve as a lawmaker for more than two decades, calling him “a true American hero.”

“Godspeed, John Glenn. Ad astra,” NASA tweeted, echoing the famous words radioed by fellow astronaut Scott Carpenter to Glenn before he circled the Earth in 1962. Glenn died at the James Cancer Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, according to Hank Wilson, a spokesman for the John Glenn College of Public Affairs. The cause of death was not immediately announced. “With John’s passing, our nation has lost an icon and Michelle and I have lost a friend,” said President Barack Obama. “John always had the right stuff, inspiring generations of scientists, engineers and astronauts who will take us to Mars and beyond — not just to visit, but to stay,” he said. The former astronaut and veteran of two wars had been in declining health, undergoing heart-valve replacement surgery in 2014 and reportedly suffering a stroke, and was hospitalized in Columbus more than a week before he died. “John is one of the best and bravest men I’ve ever known,” said Secretary of State John Kerry as he paid respects to his friend and former colleague in the Senate, calling him “an inspiration.” President-elect Donald Trump, who happened to be in Columbus when Glenn’s death was announced, paid his own tribute, telling a rally later in Iowa: “He was a giant among men, and a true American legend.”