John Glenn’s Birthday

John H. Glenn, Jr. (Born: July 18, 1921) is best known as the first American astronaut to orbit the earth.  Glenn was born in Cambridge, Ohio but moved to New Concord when he was two years old.  As a boy he was interested in science and flying airplanes.  He graduated from New Concord High School and attended the local Muskingum College.  In 1943, Glenn married his childhood sweetheart, Anna Castor.

Shortly after Pearl Harbor, when the United States entered into World War II, Glenn enlisted and became a Marine pilot.  Glenn flew 149 missions between World War II and the Korean War.  Later, he served as a test pilot for Naval and Marine aircraft and after setting a speed record in 1957 on a flight between Los Angeles to New York, Glenn earned a reputation as one of the country’s top test pilots.  This eventually led him to the astronaut corps program.

In 1959, NASA selected Glenn as one of the seven astronauts in the U.S. Mercury space program.  On February 20, 1962 Glenn rode the Friendship 7 spacecraft into space and became the first American to orbit the earth.  At the time the U.S. was lagging behind the Soviet Union in the “Space Race” and Glenn was welcomed back to earth as a hero.  Afterwards, he continued to serve as a NASA advisor until 1964 and the following year he retired from the Marine Corps, resigned from NASA and decided to run for political office.  Glenn was elected and served as a U.S. Senator for the state of Ohio for 24 years.

Over three decades after his first flight, Glenn returned to space on the Space Shuttle Discovery on October 29, 1998.  At the age of 77 he made history again as the oldest person to fly in space and he is the only astronaut to fly in both the NASA Mercury and the Space Shuttle programs.  This second flight offered valuable research from a perspective of space flight on the same person at two different points in their life, thirty-six years apart, providing information on the effects of spaceflight and weightlessness on the elderly.  Glenn returned to earth a hero for the second time and he is the only astronaut to have experienced both a splashdown and a touchdown.

John Glenn received a Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978; he was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1990 and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.  Currently John Glenn and Scott Carpenter are the only remaining Mercury astronauts.

The John and Annie Glenn Historical Site in New Concord, Ohio

John Glenn Boyhood Home - exterior    John Glenn Boyhood Home - interior

While traveling on a road trip to Pennsylvania in 2009, we stopped in New Concord, Ohio to see John Glenn’s boyhood home.  The house where Glenn grew up was originally located on the “National Road” and when the road was widened, the home was moved to Friendship Drive and then moved again in 2001 to the current location on Main Street.  It has been restored and it is decorated in the style of the late 1930s.  The John and Annie Glenn Historical Site has a small museum of memorabilia for both Glenn’s space and political careers and in the visitor center they show several different videos regarding the life of both John and Annie Glenn.