COLUMBUS, Ohio, Dec. 17 (UPI) — Throngs of mourners visited Ohio’s state capitol on Friday to pay final respects to former astronaut and U.S. senator John Glenn, who died last week at the age of 95.
Glenn died Dec. 8 after spending a week in a Columbus hospital. On Friday, his body lay in state in the capitol rotunda as mourners filed past his casket.
A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday.
Two members of a United States Marine honor guard stood by the iconic figure’s casket at the statehouse before the public began to file in. The body was set to lie in state until Friday evening.
Among those who paid tribute Friday were Secretary of State John Kerry, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger and Glenn’s widow, Annie.
“He certainly was a pioneer in aviation and a leader in American politics,” Lyle Marchant, 71, told the Columbus Dispatch. “He was a national hero to me. He got America back into the space race and the forefront of world leadership.”
Glenn was one of NASA’s first astronaut recruits and a member of the famous “Mercury Seven” — a group of test pilots tapped by the space administration to spearhead its space program in 1958.
As one of NASA’s top aviators, Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962 — and then the oldest person in space 36 years later, when he was a 77-year-old U.S. senator representing Ohio.
Vice President Joe Biden will attend Saturday’s service, which begins at 2 p.m. at an auditorium on the campus of Ohio State University. He will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, D.C.