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John Glenn gets heart valve replacement

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Jan. 25, 2012: John Glenn speaks during an interview at his office in Columbus, Ohio.AP

Former astronaut and U.S. senator John Glenn has had a heart valve replacement as he approaches his 93rd birthday.

Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth, was recuperating, a spokesman at Ohio State University said Wednesday. Glenn is strong and healthy ahead of his birthday on July 18, John Glenn School of Public Affairs spokesman Hank Wilson said.

Glenn had a minimally invasive version of the valve replacement procedure at the Cleveland Clinic in May and is recovering well, Wilson said.

"It was fine, and he's fine," Wilson said. "I just talked to him today. He's strong and healthy. ... It really wasn't that big of a deal in that regard."

In 1962, Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth as a member of the Mercury 7 program.

"Godspeed, John Glenn," fellow astronaut Scott Carpenter radioed just before Glenn thundered off a launch pad in an Atlas rocket.

With the all-business phrase, "Roger, the clock is operating, we're underway," Glenn radioed to Earth as he started his nearly 5 hours in space. Later he uttered a phrase he has repeated throughout life: "Zero G, and I feel fine."

Glenn, a Democrat, later spent more than two decades as a U.S. senator and returned to space at age 77 aboard the space shuttle Discovery.

Before he orbited the world, he fought in two wars as a fighter pilot and set a transcontinental speed record as a test pilot.

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