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Former U.S. Senator And Space Pioneer John Glenn Dies At 95

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

John Glenn, the former NASA astronaut and U.S. senator, has died. In 1959, NASA picked Glenn to join Project Mercury in the first group of American astronauts. Three years later in 1962, Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth, rocketed into space on the Friendship 7.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Liftoff.

JOHN GLENN: Roger. The clock is operating. We're on our way.

SHAPIRO: John Glenn had fought in World War II and the Korean War as a Marine pilot before becoming an airplane test pilot, where he set a speed record. But this is the moment Glenn will be most remembered for - as he hurtled around Earth and peered into space.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GLENN: Zero-G, and I feel fine - capsule is turning around. Oh, that view is tremendous. Capsule turning around, and I can see the booster during turnaround just a couple of hundred yards behind me. It was beautiful. The sky above is absolutely black, completely black. I can see stars, though, up above. I do not have any of the constellations identified as yet - over.

SHAPIRO: John Glenn aboard the capsule Friendship 7 in 1962. He later spent 24 years representing Ohio in the Senate. In 1998, he returned to space on the shuttle Discovery and made history again as the oldest person to fly in space. John Glenn died today. He was 95 years old. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.