Tributes pour in for space pioneer John Glenn

Tributes are pouring in for former astronaut and senator John Glenn, who passed away Thursday.

Glenn, who launched into hero status in 1962 after he became the first American to orbit the Earth, died Thursday afternoon at the James Cancer Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. He was 95.

“John Glenn is, and always will be, Ohio’s ultimate hometown hero, and his passing today is an occasion for us all to grieve,” said Ohio Governor John Kasich, in a statement.

“We are saddened by the loss of Sen. John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth. A true American hero. Godspeed, John Glenn. Ad astra,” tweeted NASA. The latin phrase “Ad Astra” means “to the stars.”

Glenn, who served as a Marine fighter pilot during the Korean War, was the third U.S. astronaut in space and the first of them to get into orbit. He circled the Earth three times.

The space pioneer then spent 24 years as a Democrat from Ohio in the Senate and briefly made a run for president in 1984. He returned to space in 1998, at age 77, aboard space shuttle Discovery.

“The Corps lost a legend today. Col. John Glenn— an astronaut, a senator, a Marine—died at the age of 95. Semper Fi, Sir,” tweeted the U.S. Marines.

''John Glenn was true servant of the American public,” John Logsdon, professor emeritus at George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute, told “From his days as fighter pilot in the Korean war to his becoming the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962, he was willing to take great risks to advance U.S. interests.”

Dr. Mae Jemison, a former NASA astronaut and the first African-American woman to fly in space, said that she remembered the Mercury program-- of which Glenn was a part-- from her childhood.

“I was sad to hear that he passed away, but at the same time I think that what we need to do is really to celebrate a life that was so incredibly full and impactful and beneficial to us,” she told

She also hailed the “courage and commitment that go along with being one of the Mercury astronauts.”

“A person’s life has many parts to it,” she reflected, referencing the fact that he was also a senator, “and the testimony to a great life is when you continue to contribute in many different ways, and that’s what I think is vital.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.