John Herschel Glenn Jr. flew into the history books on Feb. 20, 1962, when he became the first American to go into orbit. But his trajectory to greatness was set years earlier, as a Marine Corps pilot. Glenn flew 59 combat missions in World War II and 90 combat missions in the Korean War. Here we see Glenn climbing out of the cockpit of his F-8-UI Crusader jet at Brooklyn's Floyd Bennett Field in 1957, after making the first nonstop, supersonic flight from Los Angeles to New York. The flight was called "Project Bullet" because Glenn traveled faster than a bullet. The 3-hour, 23-minute trip set a transcontinental speed record, and put Glenn on the radar screen for selection as an astronaut a couple of years later.
The seven Mercury astronauts pose for a photo in their spacesuits in 1962. Front row, left to right, are Wally Schirra, Deke Slayton, John Glenn and Scott Carpenter. Back row, from left, are Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom and Gordon Cooper.
John Glenn in the Friendship 7 spacecraft during his flight around the Earth in 1962.
During Friendship 7's three-orbit flight, NASA controllers saw indications that the capsule's heat shield had come loose - which could be a fatal flaw for re-entry. They told Glenn not to jettison the craft's retro-rocket pack, as an added precaution. Glenn ended up making a safe splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean, and it turned out that the apparent heat-shield problem was merely due to a sensor failure. Here you see Glenn's capsule attached to a retrieval cable hanging down from a helicopter. The capsule released green dye into the water to help searchers find it from the air.
President John F. Kennedy, astronaut John Glenn and Gen. Leighton I. Davis, commander of the Air Force Missile Test Center, ride together in the back seat during a 1962 parade in Cocoa Beach, Fla., to celebrate America's first human orbital spaceflight.
Astronaut John Glenn and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy water-ski on a tandem tow on Massachusetts' Lewis Bay, near Hyannis Port, on July 22, 1962. Glenn and his family were the weekend house guests of Jackie's brother-in-law, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.
Sen. John Glenn confers with a fellow Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joe Biden, during a 1981 hearing on the sale of an AWACS radar plane to Saudi Arabia. Glenn would serve in the Senate until 1999, while Biden would go on to become vice president in 2009.
President Bill Clinton gets a helping of a space shuttle meal from senator/astronaut John Glenn while shuttle commander Curt Brown looks on, during a tour of the space shuttle mockup at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Texas on April 14, 1998.
In this photo taken Nov. 16, 2011, astronaut and former Ohio Sen. John Glenn, center, poses with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., left, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., on Capitol Hill in Washington, during a ceremony where Glenn received a Congressional Gold Medal. Glenn says he believes an "unattractive" elections process discourages the best people from pursuing public service. The 90-year-old Democrat is optimistic that good people will run for office but understands some might shy from opening their lives to intense public scrutiny, he told The Columbus Dispatch in a wide-ranging interview published Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012.
Senator-astronaut John Glenn and his wife Annie, along with other members of the shuttle Discovery's crew, parade up Broadway's "Canyon of Heroes" on Nov. 16, 1998. This was the second time Glenn received a ticker-tape parade in New York. The first one came after his history-making 1962 orbital flight.
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 on May 29, 2012.
Sen. John Glenn speaks with reporters, with his Daughter Lyn Glenn, during the christening ceremony for the USNS John Glenn at the General Dynamics NASSCO Shipyard in San Diego on Feb. 1, 2014.
Month in Space: November 2016