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Another surprising, but inexplicable finding of the mission, were the greenish-yellow lights spotted during the first rays of sunrise as he was crossing the Pacific Ocean toward the U.S. Though Glenn wrote that he didn't know what they were, they gave him an opportunity to summon not just his bravery but also his capacity to appreciate beauty:

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In Buddhism, death is not the end of life; it teaches rebirth and differentiates it from reincarnation because Buddhism does not recognise a self or soul that is continually reappearing in a new form. Death for the unenlightened, whose minds are still infected with desire, is followed by yet another life. But for the Enlightened who have extinguished all desire, including the desire to be born again, there is no more rebirth. So Buddhists don't usually refer to the Buddha's death but to his passing, into Nibbana or Nirvana.

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'The Buddha' is not a personal name but a title, and can be translated as 'the Enlightened One' or 'the One Who Knows'. He was not born the Buddha but became the Buddha through his realisation of full and perfect Enlightenment. This state is also known as Nirvana (Sanskrit)or Nibbana (Pali) and occurs when a person sees and understands the true nature of all things.

The Wesak festival is the most important festival in the Buddhist calendar.

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Traditionally, his birth is supposed to have been in 623 BC but the Buddhist calendar is counted from his final passing, eighty years later. The older tradition of Vesak is to celebrate all three events but there are some more recent Buddhist schools and groups that celebrate just the birth and others only the Enlightenment.

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At Vesak Buddhists commemorate the birth of the Buddha-to-be, Siddhattha Gotama, his Enlightenment at the age of 35 when he became the Buddha and his final 'passing' into Nirvana at the age of 80, no more to be reborn. Buddhist scriptures relate that each of these three significant events occurred on a full moon of the Indian lunar month of Vesakha.

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As the above gallery shows, the American hero was a fixture in LIFE Magazine throughout the Space Race era, as the U.S. strove to fulfill President John F. Kennedy's promise to beat the Soviets to the Moon by the end of the 1960s. (The Soviet Union got a head start by successfully launching Sputnik I, the world's first artificial satellite, on Oct. 4, 1957, and making Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin the first human in space on April 12, 1961.) Glenn took this mission seriously. As he LIFE in 1960, "Anyone who doesn't want to be first doesn't belong in this program."

Only by passing into Nirvana can a person end the cycle of death and re-birth.

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There are some cultural and local differences in how the various Buddhist groups and nations celebrate Vesak, but broadly speaking devout Buddhists will try to attend their local temple for at least part of the day, while some remain there throughout the day and night of the full moon. The celebration will include the practices of Giving, Virtue and Cultivation and the doing of good and meritorious deeds.

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"Weightlessness, at least for a period of a few hours, is no problem at all in spaceflight," he wrote in of the historic flight for LIFE's March 9, 1962, issue. The essay's title: If You're All Shook Up, You Shouldn't Be There.

Former Ohio U.S. Senator and astronaut —the  and the third in space—died on Thursday at 95.


As a result, all their greed, hatred and delusion is extinguished, which in turn means that there will be no more re-birth. The Buddha achieved the state of nirvana and this is celebrated on Vesak.