John Glenn, Former Astronaut and First American to Orbit Earth, Dies in Ohio at 95

(Photo: Reuters/Mike Segar/File Photo)Astronaut John Glenn waves to the cheering crowd as he rides in an open car with his wife Annie during a ticker tape parade down New York's "Canyon of Heroes" on lower Broadway, November 16, 1998.
(Photo: Reuters/Gregg Newton/File Photo)Former astronaut John Glenn shows the interior of his "Friendship 7" Mercury spacecraft to wife Annie at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, U.S. on February 20, 2002. Exactly 40 years ago, Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth in this spacecraft. Glenn is one of America's seven original astronauts. Located in the 'Milestones of Flight' gallery, the capsule is one of the museum's most popular attractions.
(Photo: Courtesy NASA/Handout via Reuters)Astronaut John H. Glenn, Jr., is in his Mercury flight suit in this undated NASA photo.
(Photo: Reuters/NASA/Handout/File Photo)Astronaut John H. Glenn, Jr., is pictured during the Mercury-Atlas 6 spaceflight becoming the first American to orbit Earth, February 20, 1962, in this handout photo taken by a camera onboard the spacecraft, provided by NASA.
(Photo: Reuters/File Photo)Astronaut John Glenn waves with crewmates as they depart crew quarters for the launching pad at the Kennedy Space Centre October 29, 1998.
wikimedia commonsJohn Glenn on the occasion of his second space flight on October 29, 1998, on Space Shuttle Discovery's STS-95.
(Photo: Reuters/Jason Reed/File Photo)U.S. President Barack Obama awards a 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom to astronaut and former U.S. Senator John Glenn during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, May 29, 2012.
(Photo: Reuters/Mike Munden)Former astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn (L) and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden speak live with the crew of the International Space Station as they kick off the agency's two-day Future Forum at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio February 20, 2012. This is part of a celebration of the 50-year anniversary of Glenn's famous orbit around earth in 1962.
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John Glenn, who became one of the 20th century's greatest heroes as the first American to orbit Earth and later as the world's oldest astronaut, in addition to a long career as a U.S. senator, died on Thursday at age of 95, Ohio's governor said.

Glenn was the last surviving member of the original seven "Right Stuff" Mercury astronauts.

"John Glenn is, and always will be, Ohio's ultimate hometown hero, and his passing today is an occasion for all of us to grieve," Ohio Governor John Kasich said in a statement.

Glenn was credited with reviving U.S. pride after the Soviet Union's early domination of manned space exploration. His three laps around the world in the Friendship 7 capsule on Feb. 20, 1962, forged a powerful link between the former fighter pilot and the Kennedy-era quest to explore outer space as a "New Frontier."

As the third of seven astronauts in NASA's solo-flight Mercury program to venture into space, Glenn became more of a media fixture than any of the others and was known for his composure and willingness to promote the program.

Glenn's astronaut career, as well as his record as a fighter pilot in World War Two and the Korean War, helped propel him to the U.S. Senate in 1974, where he represented his home state of Ohio for 24 years as a moderate Democrat.

But his star was dimmed somewhat by a Senate investigation of several senators on whether special favors were done for a major campaign contributor. He was cleared of wrongdoing.

Glenn's entry into history came in early 1961 when fellow astronaut Scott Carpenter bade him "Godspeed, John Glenn" just before the Ohio native was rocketed into space for a record-breaking trip that would last just under five hours.

"Zero-G (gravity) and I feel fine," was Glenn's succinct assessment of weightlessness several minutes into his mission. "... Oh, and that view is tremendous."

After splashdown and recovery in the Atlantic, Glenn was treated as a hero, addressing a joint session of Congress and being feted in a New York ticker-tape parade.

His experiences as a pioneer astronaut were chronicled in the book and movie "The Right Stuff," along with the other Mercury pilots. The book's author, Tom Wolfe, called Glenn "the last true national hero America has ever had."

"I don't think of myself that way," Glenn told the New York Times in 2012 to mark the 50th anniversary of his flight. "I get up each day and have the same problems others have at my age. As far as trying to analyze all the attention I received, I will leave that to others."

Glenn's historic flight made him a favorite of President John Kennedy and his brother Robert, who encouraged him to launch a political career that finally took off after a period as a businessman made him a millionaire.

(Reporting by Will Dunham in Washington; Editing by Bill Trott)