John Glenn's 90th Birthday Celebrated With Never-Before-Seen Photos From LIFE.com

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John Glenn, one of the first Americans in space and arguably the first celebrity astronaut, celebrated his 90th birthday on Monday, July 18.

Glenn became the first U.S. citizen to orbit the earth and the third American in space on February 20, 1962, when he piloted the Mercury-Atlas 6 "Friendship 7" spacecraft as it rotated the earth three times before returning to the ground.

Prior to his work on NASA's Mercury project, Glenn was a fighter pilot and a decorated veteran who served in WWII and Korea. As a retired astronaut, he served three terms as the Democratic Senator from Ohio. In 1998, he returned to space aboard space shuttle Discovery for a nine-day mission.

In honor of Glenn's achievements, LIFE.com has published 25 previously unreleased photographs from the 1950s and '60s, when America's space program was just getting off the ground.

The collection includes stills of Glenn with other Mercury astronauts, shaking hands with John F. Kennedy, suiting up for blastoff, greeting voters in Ohio during his first Senate run and more.

"A moral and strongly religious man, he believes deeply that the astronauts, and particularly himself, have been given an enormous responsibility not just to make the flights work out well but also to become proper symbols of the nation's future," LIFE magazine wrote of Glenn in 1961.

Take a look at new images of Glenn (below), and visit the LIFE.com gallery to see the entire collection. Then, view a gallery of astronauts' most daring spacewalks.

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