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John Glenn: First American to orbit the Earth

Updated 6:12 PM ET, Wed December 7, 2016
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The original Mercury 7 astronauts inspect an early design of a space module. From left are Gus Grissom, Deke Slayton, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Alan Shepard and Wally Schirra. In 1962, Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth. See more images at Life.com Hank Walker/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Glenn does his astronaut homework in Florida in 1959. "We spent a lot of time testing and studying and re-testing systems we'd be dealing with on any craft that might eventually be sent into space," Glenn remembered. "We had never dealt with those systems before: They were invented just for this project." Ralph Morse/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Glenn and his family visit with Vice President Lyndon Johnson, far right, two days after his historic orbital flight aboard Friendship 7 in February 1962. Ralph Morse/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Glenn announces his candidacy for US Senate in 1964. "In his only previous contacts with high-level politicians of both parties," Life magazine wrote, "Glenn has been the object of admiration and affection; for the people in general he has been virtually above reproach. Now, suddenly, his hero's immunity is gone. He must stand still for hard looks and hard questions by men who have long studied all the answers." Ralph Morse/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Glenn with family members during his Senate campaign in 1964. He didn't win, but he ran again and was elected in 1974. He eventually served four terms. Hank Walker/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Glenn is seen in 1964. In 1998, he again flew into space, this time aboard the space shuttle Discovery. His role in the mission was, in large part, to study the effects of space flight on the elderly. He was 77 at the time. Bill Ray/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images