Astronaut John Glenn, who said during a momentous space flight that seeing creation strengthened his faith in God, has died aged 95.
Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth and later became the oldest person to fly in space.
The phrase “Godspeed, John Glenn”, said to him ahead of his historic orbital mission, was echoed by NASA and politicians in messages of commemoration.
Belief in God
Glenn became the oldest person to travel into orbit in 1998 when, at the age of 77, he flew on the space shuttle Discovery.
During an interview from space, he said: “To look up out at this kind of creation and not believe in God is to me impossible”. He added: “It just strengthens my faith.”
He said he prayed every day while on the trip as a payload specialist.
Born in Ohio in 1921, Glenn fought in the Pacific during World War Two – and later in Korea.
He was selected as one of six pilots for the US space programme and took off in the Friendship 7 spacecraft in February 1962.
To look up out at this kind of creation and not believe in God is to me impossible
On his return, he was welcomed with a ticker-tape parade in New York and went on to serve as a Democratic Senator in Ohio for four consecutive terms.
In its obituary, NASA said: “The life and career of Senator Glenn eclipses those of many. In spite of his accomplishments, he was a humble and gracious man”.
Christian leaders Albert Mohler and Russell Moore also paid tribute to Glenn.
Moore, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, tweeted his sadness, describing Glenn as an inspirational “history-maker”.
Sad to hear of the death of #johnglenn. What a history-maker, inspiring a generation into space.
— Russell Moore (@drmoore) December 8, 2016