vetran astronaut John Young, Only Person to Walk on Moon, Fly Shuttle, Dies at 87: Nasa
legendary astronaut John Young, archived a number of milestones over the course of his 42 year career at NASA: a Navy pilot who served during the Korean War, he flew in space six time with some of the agency’s biggest programs, was the ninth person to walk on the moon, and the first to pilot the Space Shuttle. NASA announced earlier today that Young died at the age of 87 due to complications from pneumonia.
Born on September 24th, 1930, Young attended the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he earned his degree in aeronautical engineering in 1952. From there, he joined the US Navy, served aboard the USS LAWS during the Korean War, and went on to attend the Navy Test Pilot School. In 1962, NASA selected him as part of Astronaut Group 2, the second batch of pilots that included Neil Armstrong, Frank Borman, Pete Conrad, Jim Lovell, James McDivitt, Elliot See, Thomas Strafford, and Ed White.
Young, a former U.S. Navy test pilot, in 1972 became the ninth of 12 people ever to set foot on the moon.The longest-serving astronaut in the space program, Young’s
career began as a Navy test flier. He was the only moon walker to pilot a space shuttle, the first person to go into space six times and the only one to fly and
command four types of spacecraft — Gemini, Apollo, lunar module and shuttle.
Young became one of the most accomplished astronauts in the history of the U.S. space program. He flew into space twice during NASA’s Gemini program in the mid-1960s,
twice on the Apollo lunar missions and twice on space shuttles in the 1980s.
He retired in 2004 after 42 years with the U.S. space agency.
The Apollo 16 mission in April 1972, his fourth space flight, took Young to the lunar surface.On Apollo 10, in May 1969, NASA performed what it called “a full dress rehearsal” for landing men on the moon two months later. Young remained in the command capsule as Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan descended in a lunar module to within 9 miles of the moon’s surface. Returning to Earth, they set a record still not equaled by a manned vehicle, going 32 times the speed of sound, or 24,816 miles per hour.
As mission commander, he and crewmate Charles Duke explored the moon’s Descartes Highlands region, gathering 200 pounds (90 kg) of rock and soil samples and driving more than 16 miles (26 km) in the lunar rover to sites such as Spook Crater.
Recalling his lunar exploits, Young told the Houston Chronicle in 2004: “One-sixth gravity on the surface of the moon is just delightful. It’s not like being in zero gravity, you know. You can drop a pencil in zero gravity and look for it for three days. In one-sixth gravity, you just look down and there it is.”
Young’s first time in space came in 1965 with the Gemini 3 mission that took him and astronaut Gus Grissom into Earth orbit in the first two-man U.S. space jaunt.
It was on this mission that Young pulled his sandwich stunt, which did not make NASA brass happy but certainly pleased Grissom, the recipient of the snack.
Astronaut Wally Schirra, who was not flying on the mission, bought the corned beef sandwich on rye bread from a delicatessen in Cocoa Beach, Florida, and asked Young to give it to Grissom in space. During the flight, as they discussed the food provided for the mission, Young handed Grissom the sandwich.
NASA later rebuked Young for the antics, which generated criticism from lawmakers and the media, but his career did not suffer.
His May 1969 Apollo 10 mission served as a “dress rehearsal” for the historic Apollo 11 mission two months later in which Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon. Young and his crew undertook each aspect of that subsequent mission except for an actual moon landing.
Young’s fifth space mission was as commander of the inaugural flight of NASA’s first space shuttle, Columbia, in 1981. He became the first person to fly six space missions in 1983, when he commanded Columbia on the first Spacelab trek, with the crew performing more than 70 scientific experiments.
He never went to space again. Young had been due to command a 1986 flight that was canceled after the explosion of the shuttle Challenger earlier that year. He ended up as the only person to fly on space shuttle, Apollo and Gemini missions.
Young was born on Sept. 24, 1930, in San Francisco and grew up in Orlando, Florida. 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. NASA picked him in 1962 for its astronaut program.
“NASA and the world have lost a pioneer,” Robert Lightfoot, NASA administrator, said in the statement. “Astronaut John Young’s storied career spanned three generations of spaceflight; we will stand on his shoulders as we look toward the next human frontier.”
Young’s achievements were paired with a laconic style and a heartbeat that barely jumped after liftoff. He was a stickler for safety, which benefited and exasperated NASA officials.
“He was quite an asset to the space program,” Apollo 13 commander Jim Lovell said, according to an interview with the Orlando Sentinel when Young retired in 2004. “He was always questioning what we were doing and why we were doing it.”