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History-making astronaut dies

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COLUMBUS Mr John Glenn, who made history twice as the first American to orbit Earth and later as the first senior citizen to venture into space, died on Thursday at the age of 95.

Mr Glenn became a symbol of strength and the nation's pioneering spirit. He drew admirers from all walks of life over a long career in the military, then in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa), and the US Senate.

He was chosen along with six other military pilots as part of the "Original Seven", the first class of US astronauts in 1959 whose saga was recounted in the movie The Right Stuff.

Nasa was among the first to pay tribute to the legendary astronaut, who went on to serve as a lawmaker for more than two decades, calling him "a true American hero".


"Godspeed, John Glenn. Ad astra," Nasa tweeted, echoing the famous words radioed by fellow astronaut Scott Carpenter to Mr Glenn before he circled the Earth in 1962.

Mr Glenn died at the James Cancer Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, according to Hank Wilson, a spokesman for the John Glenn College of Public Affairs.

The cause of death was not immediately announced.

The first man to orbit Earth was Russia's Yuri Gagarin in 1961. On Feb 20, 1962, Mr Glenn became the first American to accomplish the same feat, uttering the memorable phrase: Zero G and I feel fine.

Mr Glenn's flight lasted just under five hours. He circled Earth three times as part of Nasa's Mercury project.

On Oct 29, 1998 - 36 years later - he made history again when he returned to space at the age of 77.

He became the oldest astronaut in space.

It was another shining moment in a career of trailblazing successes spanning decades. - AFP

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