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First US astronaut to orbit Earth John Glenn dies aged 95

John Glenn was the fifth person in space Credit: Reuters

John Glenn, the first US astronaut to successfully orbit the Earth, has died aged 95.

Glenn, who later enjoyed a long career as a US senator, was the last surviving member of the original "Right Stuff" Mercury astronauts.

The "Mercury Seven" group of military test pilots, selected in 1959 by NASA, became America's first astronauts.

Glenn became the fifth person ever in space, behind Russians Yuri Gagarin and Gherman Titov, as well as Americans Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom.

Before gaining fame as a pilot, Glenn was a fighter pilot during World War Two and the Korean War.

His public life began when he broke the transcontinental airspeed record, flying from Los Angeles to New York in just three hours, 23 minutes and eight seconds.

Having been picked by NASA as part of the Mercury Seven, Glenn went into orbit on Friendship 7 on February 20, 1962.

During the flight he uttered a phrase he would repeat often: "Zero G, and I feel fine"

On the 50th anniversary of his historic flight, Glenn said: "It still seems so vivid to me.

"I still can sort of pseudo feel some of those same sensations I had back in those days during launch and all".

Undated photo of John Glenn in his Mercury flight suit. Credit: NASA
John Glenn and President John F. Kennedy inspect the Friendship 7 in 1962. Credit: AP

After addressing a joint session of Congress and dining at the White House he became friends with President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert.

The Kennedy's encouraged him to enter politics, which led to a second long and successful career.

Glenn represented Ohio in the US Senate for 24 years, longer than any other senator in the state's history.

His 1984 run for the Democratic presidential nomination was unsuccessful.

He announced he was retiring in 1997, 35 years to the day after he became the first American in orbit.

In 1998, he returned to space aged 77, spending nine days aboard the shuttle Discovery.

During the trip, which was far longer than the less than 5 hour trip in 1962, he experimented with bubbles in weightlessness.

To this day he remains the oldest astronaut in space.

Glenn returned to space in 1998 aged 77 Credit: Reuters
John Glenn receives a paper aeroplane from pilot Steven Lindsey while on the Discovery shuttle in 1998. Credit: NASA

He was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2012.

In 2015 the airport in Columbus Ohio was renamed the John Glenn Columbus International Airport.

He continued to pilot his own private plane until he was 90-years-old.

Glenn died aged 95 on Thursday at the James Cancer Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, where he had been in hospital for more than a week.

President-elect Donald Trump, on a "thank you tour" of states that helped him secure his election win, paid tribute to Glenn during a speech at a rally in Iowa.