Special Lindbergh “Spirit” Award Presented at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. in honor of Glenn’s pioneering achievements in an aviation career and a spirit and character that represents the best of this nation.
A United States senator and astronaut, Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth, aboard the third piloted flight of the Mercury program. He also became the oldest person ever to go into space when he rode aboard the space shuttle Discovery in late 1998. In 1939 Glenn entered Muskingum College, in his native state of Ohio, but left during his junior year to take preflight training in the Naval Aviation Cadet Program. As a pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps he flew 149 combat missions in World War II and the Korean War. In 1957 he became the first person to make a nonstop supersonic flight across the United States. In 1959 Glenn was chosen by NASA to fly aboard the third U.S. piloted spaceflight. He became the first American to orbit the earth in space on February 20, 1962. Glenn retired from NASA and the Marine Corps in 1965 with many military and space program awards and honors including the Distinguished Flying Cross, which he was awarded five times, and the Air Medal with 18 clusters. Upon retirement, he was a business executive and a consultant to NASA. In 1974 Glenn was elected to the U.S. Senate. He served four terms before deciding not to seek reelection in 1998. While in Congress, Glenn served on the Special Intelligence Committee. He was ranking member of the Governmental Affairs Committee, and as a military veteran, he also served on the Armed Services Committee from 1985 to 1998. Throughout his political career, Glenn lobbied NASA to allow him to go back into space. In October 1998 at the age of 77, Glenn returned to space aboard the space shuttle Discovery.