John Glenn lived a life filled with firsts. After serving as a pilot in World War II and the Korean War, he became the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962 as a member of the Mercury 7, NASA’s first class of astronauts. In 1998, when he was 77 years old, he flew on board the space shuttle Discovery and became the oldest man to ever travel to space.
In between those major milestones, he didn’t stray far from government work, although this phase of his career was a little more grounded — from 1974 to 1999, he served as a U.S. senator for his home state of Ohio.
Glenn died at 95 today at the James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State University. Read on for the space pioneer’s insights about exploration, service and making a difference.
- “If I can inspire young people to dedicate themselves to the good of mankind, I’ve accomplished something.”
- “If there is one thing I’ve learned in my years on this planet, it’s that the happiest and most fulfilled people I’ve known are those who devoted themselves to something bigger and more profound than merely their own self-interest.”
- “If a man faces up to the [unknown] and takes the dare of the future, he can have some control over his destiny.”
- “Don’t give in to complacency and cynicism. Don’t ignore what is bad, but concentrate on building what is good. Don’t take America and the values reflected in our form of government for granted. And never forget that in our democracy, the government is not ‘them’ — it is ‘us.'”
- “We are more fulfilled when we are involved in something bigger than ourselves.”
- “To sit back and let fate play its hand out and never influence it is not the way man was meant to operate.”
- “We have an infinite amount to learn both from nature and from each other.”
- “Zero G and I feel fine.”