20 years ago today: John Glenn blasted into space aboard the Discovery

Twenty years ago today, Ohioan John Glenn returned to space aboard the space shuttle Discovery on a nine-day mission that marked another chapter in his storybook life.

On Feb. 20, 1962, Glenn vaulted to instant international fame when he became the first American to orbit the Earth. Thirty-six years later, at age 77, he joined the Discovery team as a payload specialist and became the oldest person ever in space.

The mission took off on Oct. 29, 1998.

Wobbly-legged, Glenn returned at Kennedy Space Center after 134 loops around the earth and 3.6 million miles.

NASA used Glenn’s flight to study the effects of space travel on an elderly person but the trek was a public relations hit for the agency. NASA arranged for several in-flight press conferences and educational events that allowed students in Ohio and Virginia to ask questions of Glenn and others.

Related: How John Glenn made an impact on the Dayton area

Related: John Glenn: Last 'true American hero' dead at 95

Glenn lived a storybook life under the bright and constant glare of public attention, awe and adoration. The small-town Ohio boy married his childhood sweetheart, served as a fighter pilot in two wars, a test pilot, an astronaut and a U.S. Senator for 24 years.

He died Dec. 8, 2016 at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center at age 95.

About the Author