Lindbergh flew combat missions during World War II

NASA pioneer dead: He was an aviation hero - John Glenn is dead

"My condition is good," radioed John Glenn on February 20, 1962 from the Atlantic. "But that was a real meteor, man!" Before he splashed down, the NASA astronaut had seen burning components fly past his space capsule; a warning lamp had signaled that the heat shield could fail. But “Friendship 7” lasted and Glenn became a hero in US aviation history: he was the first American to have circled the earth in space and caught up with the space program of the Soviet Union.

Together with the young President John F. Kennedy, the 40-year-old gave back the belief in himself to an insecure nation with the contagious grin. And his résumé supported the heroic story: The son of a plumber and a teacher had flown 149 combat missions during World War II and the Korean War, and later redefined the limits of aviation as a test pilot in the Marine Corps.

In 1952 he completed the first supersonic flight between the coasts of the USA. In 1959, NASA selected him as one of the "Mercury Seven", the country's first group of astronauts. In total, he was supposed to spend 218 hours in space. His triple orbit around the earth in 1962 made him the fifth person in orbit and an icon that the New York Times compares to pioneers such as Lewis and Clark, the Wright brothers or Charles Lindbergh.

John Glenn is dead: first an astronaut, then a politician

For President Kennedy, Glenn was too valuable after the Earth orbit to risk his life on further missions. It enabled the engineer to make a new political start, in which Glenn also proved to be successful: for 24 years he represented his home state of Ohio in the Senate. During this time, the Democrat had not only advanced the fight against the proliferation of nuclear weapons and tried to become his party's presidential candidate. Shortly before leaving politics, he also managed to return to space: in 1998, NASA made the 77-year-old the oldest person in space, allegedly for research reasons. In 2012, President Barack Obama awarded him the highest civilian honor in the United States, the Medal of Freedom.

In recent years, Glenn has had increasing health problems after a stroke. He was hospitalized in Columbus last week. He died on Thursday at the age of 95. Glenn leaves behind his wife Anna and two children, each with two grandchildren. Obama said Glenn inspired generations of scientists, engineers and astronauts. The media said goodbye to him with his first response from space: “No gravity, and I feel good. The capsule rotates. Oh, the view is incredible! "