"When Glenn took his pioneering turn in space, astronaut Carpenter spoke for all Americans when he radioed from launch control just before liftoff, 'Godspeed, John Glenn.' Carpenter later said he had tried to keep the mood light by telling Glenn: 'Remember, John, this was built by the low bidder.'
"NASA cut the flight short—Glenn was supposed to orbit Earth seven times—when mechanical failure created concern that Friendship 7's heat shield might fall off during reentry and cause the capsule to burn up.
"Although he remained calm, Glenn later told Life magazine that he had been prepared to die. The heat shield held. After Glenn's safe return, he became a national hero. Bathed in the spotlight, Glenn was typically low-key.
"'It's been a long day,' he said after being fished out of the Atlantic Ocean by helicopter, 'but it has been very interesting.'"
Geraldine Baum and Valerie J. Nelson in the Los Angeles Times writes an obituary for John Glenn.