11 awesome facts about John Glenn and his amazing life

John Glenn may be one of the United States Marine Corps’ most epic alums. And that’s saying a lot (he’s in good company).

In his 95 years on planet Earth — and his time off the planet — Glenn racked up accomplishment after accomplishment, feat after feat, do after derring-do.

John Glenn

Astronaut John Glenn and technicians inspect artwork that will be painted on the outside of his Mercury spacecraft. Glenn nicknamed his capsule “Friendship 7.” (NASA photo)

It’s no wonder the U.S. and the world hail the Ohioan as a legend. He was a decorated war hero, astronaut, and senator — but he was so much more.

Here are a few interesting things you may not have known about the first American to orbit the Earth.

1. The documentary about his life was nominated for an Oscar.

The 1963 short film “The John Glenn Story” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short. That was before he was elected to the Senate.

 

His life was already so epic it warranted its own movie, and even then, he was far from finished.

2. He and his wife were married for 73 years.

John Glenn

John and Anna Glenn in 1963.

Glenn and his wife, Anna, were married in April 1943. They had two children and two grandchildren. Anna had a severe speech impediment and he protected her from the media because of it.

3. He was also the first man to eat in space.

John Glenn

Glenn is seen here eating applesauce. No kidding.

The first meal in space was applesauce. And it was a big deal because scientists thought humans might not be able to digest in zero gravity. He also ate pureed beef and vegetables. Other famous space feats include being the oldest man in space (age 77) and the first man to carry a knife (a 9-inch blade in a leather sheath).

4. His Korean War wingman was also famous.

Glenn flew several missions with “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived,” baseball hero Ted Williams. Williams flew half of his 39 combat mission over North Korea with Glenn.

John Glenn

Glenn and Ted Williams reconnect following a parade down State Road A1A in Cocoa Beach in 1999. (NASA photo)

Glenn called Williams “one of the best pilots I ever knew.”

5. Bill Clinton sent two emails as President: One was to John Glenn.

John Glenn

The laptop Clinton used to send the email sold for $60,000. (The White House/NASA)

The internet as we know it was in its infancy during the Clinton Administration, yet as President, Bill Clinton sent two: one to U.S. troops in the Adriatic, and the other to Glenn, then 77 years old and in orbit around the Earth.

6. Glenn was almost an excuse to invade Cuba.

John Glenn

Operation “Dirty Trick” was planned if Glenn’s capsule crashed back to Earth. The Pentagon reportedly wanted to blame any mishap on Cuban electronic interference, and use his death as an excuse to invade Cuba.

7. Glenn’s Marine Corps nickname was “Magnet Ass.”

John Glenn

Magnet Ass standing beside the damage to the tail of his F9F Panther from antiaircraft fire after a mission during the Korean War. (Ohio State University)

He flew a F9F Panther jet interceptor on 63 combat missions, twice returning with over 250 holes in his aircraft. His aircrews all thought he somehow attracted flak.

8. John Glenn was the last surviving Mercury 7 astronaut.

John Glenn

The Mercury 7 astronauts examine their ‘couches.’ Each astronaut’s couch was molded to fit his body to help withstand the G-loads of the launch. (NASA photo)

The next to last one died in 2013. Also, the five sons of Jeff Tracy in the kids show “Thunderbirds” were named after the first five American astronauts into space through the Mercury project: Scott Carpenter, Virgil Grissom, Alan Shepard, Gordon Cooper, and John Glenn.

9. President John F. Kennedy barred Glenn from further space flights.

Glenn found out by reading Richard Reeves’ biography of President Kennedy decades later.

JOhn Glenn

(Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston)

“Kennedy had indicated to NASA that he would just as soon that I was not assigned to another flight,” Glenn told the Mercury News in 2015.

10. Glenn took the first human-shot photo of the Earth from space.

It was a panoramic view of Florida from the Georgia border.

(NASA photo by John Glenn)

(NASA photo by John Glenn)

His first words back to NASA were, “This is Friendship 7. Can see clear back; a big cloud pattern way back across towards the Cape. Beautiful sight.”

11. His space flight inspired a blues song.

Blues legend Lightnin’ Sam Hopkins wrote an upbeat blues song about Glenn’s first orbital spaceflight.

 

Lightnin’ Hopkins was not known for upbeat, fun songs. He is best known for downbeat songs about emotional pain, tragedy, and death.

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