As the first NASA astronaut to orbit the Earth, he embodied daring and courage—and inspired a generation

In the final hours before John Glenn became the first American to venture into the dark abyss of space and orbit the Earth in 1962, he spoke to his wife, Annie, from the cramped confines of his Friendship 7 capsule. “Well, I’m going down to the corner store and buy some chewing gum,” Glenn reassured her over his headset—just as he always had before leaving home for his high-risk missions as a Marine aviator in World War II and the Korean War. “Don’t take too long,” replied Annie, his high school sweetheart, who was among the millions riveted

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