• This Cosmosphere exhibit features astronaut John Glenn who died, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016.

  • This Cosmosphere exhibit features astronaut John Glenn who died, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016.

  • This Cosmosphere exhibit features astronaut John Glenn who died, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016.

  • This Cosmosphere exhibit features astronaut John Glenn who died, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016.

  • This Cosmosphere exhibit features astronaut John Glenn who died, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016.

  • This Cosmosphere exhibit features astronaut John Glenn who died, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016.

  • This Cosmosphere exhibit features astronaut John Glenn who died, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016.

  • This Cosmosphere exhibit features astronaut John Glenn who died, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016.

  • This Cosmosphere exhibit features astronaut John Glenn who died, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016.

  • This Cosmosphere exhibit features astronaut John Glenn who died, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016.

Cosmosphere remembers John Glenn as 'hero,' 'icon'

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Helen Unruh remembered a quote by John Glenn that always stood out to her.

"I don't know what you could say about a day in which you have seen four beautiful sunsets," Unruh, who is retired from the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, recalled Thursday after learning of Glenn's death.

Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth, was 95.

"I never met him personally, but I certainly admired his courage," Unruh said. "It's easy to call people heroes, but he really was."

The Mercury program that first sent Americans such as Glenn into space, is a centerpiece of the history on display at the Cosmosphere.

Glenn's Mercury-Atlas 6 mission in 1962 was a milestone for the American space program, Cosmosphere President Jim Remar said. Before then, the United States had only sent astronauts into suborbital flight, while the Soviet Union had achieved manned orbit.

Glenn's success "lent credence to Kennedy's challenge to reach the moon by the end of the decade," Remar said. "John Glenn was an American icon."

Glenn's return to space aboard the shuttle Discovery in 1998 provided a boost to the Cosmosphere.

Director of Visitor Experience Tom Holcomb said the Cosmosphere's five space camps for senior citizens were full that year, up from the usual two per year.

"They were wildly popular," he said.

"It helped here at the Cosmosphere," Remar said. "We celebrated it and saw an uptick in interest."