It was a dangerous thing to do 55 years ago. Plenty of NASA's rockets had exploded on the launchpad or shortly thereafter. But John Glenn got in the tiny Friendship 7 capsule anyway. And he successfully orbited our planet three times before being ordered back down.

At Hamilton's Washington School that Tuesday morning, our classes were gathered in the gym to watch the liftoff on TV. We were part of the Space Race.

Glenn, who died December 8 last year, was the first American to orbit the Earth. Alan Shepard had made a sub-orbital flight before him. But the USA was trailing the Russians in spaceflight "firsts."

John Glenn became an instant hero. NASA has some great video.

John also served in U.S. Senate for four terms, In 1998, he decided he'd like to go into space again. At age 77, he spent over a week in orbit on the space shuttle Discovery.

The Oscar-nominated film, "Hidden Figures," also shows how important he was to other aspects of NASA.

One of the original Mercury 7 astronauts - John Glenn.