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.
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.
Prior to blasting into orbit around the earth for the first time, Glenn dines with NASA staffers. *Image Courtesy of LIFE.com
The original Mercury 7 astronauts (from left: Gus Grissom, Deke Slayton, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Alan Shepard, and Wally Schirra) inspect one of NASA's early space craft designs. *Image Courtesy of LIFE.com
Lieutenant Colonel Glenn pilots a jet while stationed at California's El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. *Image Courtesy of LIFE.com
Glenn pours over details of newly designed spacecraft, a frequent task in the life of an astronaut. *Image Courtesy of LIFE.com
A crowd gathers to greet Glenn at Cape Canaveral. *Image Courtesy of LIFE.com
Glenn campaigns in Ohio during his first run for Senate. Though he lost the Democratic nomination in 1964, he went on to win in 1974 and served until 1991. *Image Courtesy of LIFE.com