John Herschel Glenn, Jr was born July 18, 1921 in Cambridge, Ohio and attended primary and secondary schools in New Concord, Ohio. Showing a propensity for the sciences at an early age, he went on to study engineering at Muskingum College in New Concord graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in that subject.
In 1942 he entered the Naval Aviation Cadet Program and, after graduating, received a commission in the Marine Corps in 1943. He then went on to join Marine Fighter Squadron 155 and spent a year flying F-4U fighters in the Marshall Islands. He flew a total of 59 combat missions during WWII and then joined Marine Fighter Squadron 218 based on Guam, patrolling the North China Seas. The next move, in 1948, was to Texas where he was an instructor in advanced flight training. He furthered his experience by undertaking Amphibious Warfare training and then saw action in the Korean War, flying 63 missions for Marine Fighter Squadron 311 and 27 for the Airforce in an F-86 Sabrejet.
After Korea he trained as a test pilot and became a project officer on a number of aircraft. Not content with this he also attended Maryland University. Whilst he was a project officer of the F8U Crusader he set a transcontinental speed record from Los Angeles to New
York thus becoming the first person to average supersonic flight crossing from one side of the US to the other.
In 1959 John Glenn was selected as a Project Mercury Astronaut and was assigned to the NASA Space Task Group at Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia in April of that year. When the Space Task Group moved to Houston in early 1962 it merged with the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center. He travelled to the Kennedy Space Center, Florida and, on February 20, 1962, piloted the Mercury-Atlas 6 'Friendship 7' spacecraft on the first manned orbital mission of the United States. He completed three orbits of the earth at a height of around 162 statute miles and averaged a speed of 17,500 miles per hour. The total duration of the mission from launch to landing was 4 hours, 55 minutes, and 23 seconds. Although this represented a tremendous achievment, do not forget that, in May 1961, Alan B Shepard, Jr piloted the 'Freedom 7' MR-3 to a height of 116.5 statute miles thus becoming the first American in space and setting the scene for later space travel.