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John Herschel Glenn, Jr. (born July 18, 1921) is a former United States Marine Corps pilot, astronaut, and United States senator who was the first American to orbit the Earth and the third American in space. Glenn was combat aviator in the Marine Corps and one of the seven elite US military test pilots to be selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (more commonly referred to as "NASA") to test fly and operate the experimental Mercury spacecraft outside of the mesosphere at altitudes above 115 miles (185 km) and at speeds exceeding 5,000 miles per hour (8,000 km/h) to become the first officially recognized American (US) astronauts. He flew the Friendship 7 mission on February 20, 1962. In 1965, Glenn retired from the military and resigned from NASA so he could be eligible to stand for election to public office. As a member of the Democratic Party he was elected to represent Ohio in the United States Senate from 1974 to 1999.