But Glenn’s return to space was distinctive because it came 36 years after his historic 1962 flight on the Mercury Friendship 7 spacecraft, when he became the first American in orbit. In 1998, however, John Glenn got his wish and returned to space. He also served as a U.S senator from Ohio. Spirits Two cameras tell the tale of the first American to orbit Earth and his return to space 36 years later Two Decades Ago, John Glenn’s Encore Space Flight Lifted U.S. Senator-astronaut John Glenn and his wife Annie, along with other members of the shuttle Discovery's crew, parade up Broadway's "Canyon of Heroes" on Nov. 16, 1998.

A "human computer" assigned to NASA's Flight Research Division at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, Johnson was the African-American, then-44-year-old "girl" who was the subject of the astronaut's directive . They’re going at the same speed I am approximately. John Glenn: "Negative, negative. John Glenn was the first U.S. astronaut to orbit Earth, completing three orbits in 1962. They’re very slow; they’re not going away from me more than maybe 3 or 4 miles per hour. When John Glenn boarded the shuttle orbiter Discovery , now in the Museum’s collection and displayed at our Udvar-Hazy Center, he was 77 years old—the oldest person yet to venture into space. With those seven words, spoken by astronaut John Glenn before he became the first American to orbit Earth in 1962, Katherine Johnson's role in history changed.

Nearly 40 years after he became the first American to orbit the Earth, Senator John Hershel Glenn, Jr., is launched into space again as a payload specialist aboard the space shuttle Discovery.

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