Tue, July 19, 2011
Technology > Science

NASA commemorates 90th birthday of first U.S. astronaut to orbit Earth

2011-07-19 00:48:26 GMT2011-07-19 08:48:26(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

This 1961 file photo provided by NASA shows the original seven Mercury astronauts in their silver spacesuits. From left, first row are Walter Schirra Jr., Donald Slayton, John Glenn and Scott Carpenter. In the back row are Alan Shepard, Jr., Virgil Grissom and Gordon Cooper. (AP Photo/NASA, File)

WASHINGTON, July 18 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on Monday commemorated the 90th birthday of astronaut John Glenn, the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth and also the oldest person to fly to space when he launched on the space shuttle in 1998.

"John Glenn is a legend, and NASA sends him our best wishes on this major personal milestone," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement. "John's legacy and contributions to the continued progress of human spaceflight are immense. His example is one we continue to emulate as we push toward farther destinations in the solar system."

After a distinguished flying career with the Marines in World War II and Korea, Glenn joined NASA in 1959 as one of the country' s first astronauts in Project Mercury. On Feb. 20, 1962, Glenn piloted the Mercury-Atlas 6 "Friendship 7" spacecraft on the first U.S. manned orbital mission. He launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to successfully complete three orbits of the Earth.

Glenn flew to space again on the STS-95 mission in 1998 aboard the space shuttle Discovery. As a mission specialist, Glenn supported deployment of a variety of research payloads and participated in investigations about spaceflight and the aging process.

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