USA astronaut John Young who commanded first space shuttle mission dies

Frederick Owens
January 7, 2018

Spaceflight just lost one of its better-known icons: NASA astronaut John Young has died at the age of 87. He flew on the first manned flight of the Gemini spacecraft in 1965 (and led a flight in 1966), traveled to the Moon twice (including a moonwalk during Apollo 16) and played a key role in the rescue of Apollo 13 by helping to stretch out its resources.

Young was the only person to have flown missions on the Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle programmes.

Young, left, with Robert Crippen, flew Columbia on STS-1, the Shuttle program's maiden flight in 1981.

Young became one of the most accomplished astronauts in the history of the USA space program.

Young finally walked on the moon himself in 1972 as commander of the Apollo 16 mission - the ninth of 12 people to have ever set foot on the lunar surface. "If anybody deserves the title of legend it would be John Young", Andrew Chaikin, who has written extensively on NASA, told NPR.

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"He is the astronaut's astronaut, a hero among heroes who fly in space. In one-sixth gravity, you just look down and there it is".

"John Young was at the forefront of human space exploration with his poise, talent, and tenacity", Lightfoot said.

USA astronaut Terry Virts said in a tweet: "Rest In Peace John Young".

Former President George H.W. Bush said Young was "more than a good friend; he was a fearless patriot whose courage and commitment to duty helped our nation push back the horizon of discovery at a critical time". "To us, he represented the best in the American spirit - always looking forward, always reaching higher". After receiving a degree in aeronautical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1952, he entered the Navy and graduated from its test pilot school. Three years later he was selected as a NASA astronaut. He retired in 2004 having served as the chief of the astronaut office, responsible for crew selection.

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