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John Glenn dies at age 95 at Ohio hospital

NEW: Buzz Aldrin says he will miss Glenn's wisdom

CNN  — 

John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth and a longtime US senator, died Thursday, according to the Ohio State University. He was 95.

It was announced Wednesday that Glenn had been hospitalized “more than a week ago,” according to Ohio State University spokesman Hank Wilson. He was at the James Cancer Hospital at the Ohio State University, but his illness was not disclosed.

Glenn had heart valve replacement surgery in 2014.

President Barack Obama released a statement paying tribute to Glenn.

“With John’s passing, our nation has lost an icon and Michelle and I have lost a friend,” Obama said. “John spent his life breaking barriers, from defending our freedom as a decorated Marine Corps fighter pilot in World War II and Korea, to setting a transcontinental speed record, to becoming, at age 77, the oldest human to touch the stars. 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. …

“The last of America’s first astronauts has left us, but propelled by their example we know that our future here on Earth compels us to keep reaching for the heavens.”

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden called Glenn a mentor, role model and dear friend.

“Glenn’s extraordinary courage, intellect, patriotism and humanity were the hallmarks of a life of greatness,” Bolden said. “His missions have helped make possible everything our space program has since achieved and the human missions to an asteroid and Mars that we are striving toward now.”

Former Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin said he was saddened by the loss of a “space pioneer and world icon.”

“I am very sorry that he has departed us with his wisdom. I join that crowd of people and the entire nation and the world in paying homage to his service,” said Aldrin from a hospital bed where he has been since he was evacuated recently from the South Pole.

Social media was flooded with remembrances and reactions immediately after news of Glenn’s death.

A fascination with flight

John Herschel Glenn Jr. made history in 1962 when he completed a three-orbit flight in a cramped space capsule dubbed Friendship 7. He later served for nearly a quarter century as a US senator. In 1998, he returned to space at age 77, becoming the oldest person to ever do so.

Born in the small eastern Ohio town of Cambridge on July 18, 1921, Glenn recounted an idyllic childhood where “patriotism filled the air.”