John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth and a former University of Maryland student, died on Thursday after being hospitalized. He was 95.
A distinguished Marine Corps fighter pilot and active astronaut from 1959 to 1964, Glenn is best known for piloting the Friendship 7 on the United States' first manned mission to circle the Earth in 1962, in which he orbited the planet three times in less than five hours, according to NASA.
President Obama wrote in a statement Thursday following the astronaut's death that Glenn's landing after his 1962 mission "reminded us that with courage and a spirit of discovery there's no limit to the heights we can reach together."
Glenn attended the University of Maryland from 1956 to 1959, during which time he was also assigned to what is now known as the Bureau of Naval Weapons of Aeronautics, according to NASA. He did not finish a degree program, although he received a bachelor's degree from Muskingum College, one of the nine schools that later awarded him honorary doctoral degrees.
He, along with six other pilots, were chosen to be NASA's first astronauts from more than 500 applicants after NASA was founded in 1958. He has spent a total of more than nine days of his life in space, according to University of Maryland Libraries.
Glenn was also involved in the military during his lifetime, serving in the Korean War and World War II and flying more than 120 combat missions. Glenn was recognized with numerous awards for his service, including the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross — a military award presented to an officer or enlisted member who acts heroically during flight — which he was awarded six times, among many others, according to NASA.
He also served as a U.S. senator for Ohio until 1999 for almost 25 years after retiring from NASA in 1964. In 2012, Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
"John always had the right stuff, inspiring generations of scientists, engineers and astronauts who will take us to Mars and beyond — not just to visit, but to stay," Obama wrote.
Glenn is also recognized as the oldest person to ever fly in space after his last trip in 1998 at the age of 77, according to the University Libraries.