US & Canada

'Godspeed, John Glenn': Obama leads tributes to US astronaut

John Glenn suits up at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida prior to his trip to Launch Pad 39-B, 9 October 1998 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption John Glenn went into space again at the age of 77

US President Barack Obama has led tributes to the astronaut and former senator John Glenn, who died on Thursday aged 95.

Mr Obama said Glenn "lifted the hopes of a nation" when he blasted off from Cape Canaveral in 1962.

Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth, died in hospital in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, surrounded by his children and his wife of 73 years.

"On behalf of a grateful nation, Godspeed, John Glenn," said Mr Obama.

Glenn's achievement, which marked the moment the US caught up with the Soviet Union in manned space exploration, was praised by politicians and astronauts, who labelled him a "hero".

"The last of America's first astronauts has left us," said Mr Obama, adding that Glenn's example "compels us to keep reaching for the heavens".

US President-elect Donald Trump wrote on Twitter that Glenn was a "hero" who had "inspired generations of future explorers".

Image copyright Twitter

Former President Bill Clinton and Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a joint statement that Glenn was a "brave, bright, determined" man who "excelled in every one of his roles".

Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the Moon, said he was "saddened" at the news of Glenn's death. "He will always go down in history as one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts," he said.

In a series of tweets, NASA said Glenn was an "American hero and an inspiration to people around the globe", adding that his contributions "will forever be remembered".

Ohio Governor John Kasich said Glenn will always be "Ohio's ultimate hometown hero".

Glenn, who was born in 1921 in Cambridge, Ohio, will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia.

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Media captionWatch: When a US man orbited Earth for first time

On 20 February 1962, he blasted off solo from Cape Canaveral aboard a cramped capsule on an Atlas rocket to a new frontier for Americans.

He spent just under five hours in space, completing three laps of the world.

"Zero G (gravity) and I feel fine," was Glenn's remark on weightlessness.

Glenn, the son of a plumber and schoolteacher, was elected in 1974 as a Democrat to the US Senate, where he served for 24 years.

In 1998, 36 years after his historic flight, he became the oldest man to travel to space at age 77.

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