America stood still that day — Feb. 20, 1962 — as John Glenn, a Marine pilot, climbed into the Mercury capsule, named the Friendship 7, sitting on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral in Florida.
In a flight that took about five hours, Mr. Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. In that short time, he became a hero to his generation and those that followed.
After the flight, Mr. Glenn was honored by the White House, on Broadway and around country. He became a symbol of can-do spirit, lifting morale and restoring self-confidence at a time when many felt that the United States was falling behind the Soviet Union.
Mr. Glenn died Dec. 8 at age 95, and he was laid to rest Thursday at Arlington National Cemetery. His flag-draped coffin covered in plastic to protect it from the pouring rain, was carried to the grave site on a horse-drawn caisson.
Mr. Glenn’s family scheduled the service on the date that would have been his 74th wedding anniversary.
His widow, Annie Glenn, 97, attended the ceremony wearing a red dress; she held a single red rose as she sat in tent next to the couple’s two children, John David and Carolyn. She spoke with visible warmth to the Marine who presented her with the flag, and their faces nearly touched before she gave him a kiss.
Six Marine pallbearers in dress uniforms carried Mr. Glenn’s coffin.
A military trumpeter played taps, Marines fired three ceremonial rounds from their rifles and mourners recited the 23rd Psalm. No family member made remarks during the portion of the service that was streamed live online.
He had many accomplishments outside his career as an astronaut. He flew 149 missions as a Marine fighter pilot in World War II and Korea, broke the transcontinental air speed record, served for 24 years in the United States Senate, and founded the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at Ohio State University.
In his honor, President Trump issued a proclamation and ordered flags at federal buildings flown at half-staff Thursday.
Tributes came from fellow astronauts.
Robert Lightfoot, the acting administrator of NASA, said in a statement:
Senator Glenn was more than an astronaut — he was the hero we needed in a rapidly changing world and an icon of our American spirit.
Lawmakers, including Senator Rob Portman, of Mr. Glenn’s home state, Ohio, offered testimonials.
The historic send-off from Scott Carpenter, the mission controller, that Mr. Glenn received more than 50 years ago as he left the launchpad at Cape Canaveral seems fitting: “Godspeed, John Glenn.”