COLUMBUS, Ohio — Former astronaut and U.S. Sen. John Glenn, 95, died Thursday, Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake confirmed.
Glenn was hospitalized at Ohio State’s James Cancer Hospital for more than a week before his passing.
A spokesman for the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at Ohio State University told WJW that didn’t necessarily mean Glenn had cancer. Glenn had heart valve replacement surgery in 2014.
He became the first American to orbit Earth in 1962.
Glenn piloted the Mercury space capsule, dubbed Friendship 7, and circled the planet three times in just under five hours on Feb. 20, 1962.
Of the original seven U.S. astronauts who made up Project Mercury — Glenn, Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, Gordon Cooper, Scott Carpenter, Walter Schirra and Donald Slayton — Glenn was the last surviving member.
Before his career as an astronaut, Glenn flew 149 missions during World War II and the Korean War, and received multiple medals and decorations, including the Distinguished Flying Cross on six occasions.
He resigned from the astronaut program in 1964 and pursued a career in politics, serving as a US senator as a Democrat from Ohio between 1974 and 1999. He ran for president in 1984. But Glenn’s time in space wasn’t over.
At 77, he became the oldest person to ever travel in space. Glenn was a payload specialist aboard the space shuttle Discovery for a nine-day mission in 1998.
In 2011, he received a Congressional Gold Medal alongside Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. In 2012, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.
This year, he attended a celebration that saw the renaming of Port Columbus Airport to John Glenn Columbus International Airport.
He leaves behind his high school sweetheart and wife of more than 70 years, Annie.
“If there is one thing I’ve learned in my years on this planet, it’s that the happiest and most fulfilled people I’ve known are those who devoted themselves to something bigger and more profound than merely their own self interest,” Glenn said in 1997.