NASA Mourns Loss of Astronaut John Young, Visited the Moon Twice

Delia Watkins
January 7, 2018

"NASA and the world have lost a pioneer", the U.S. space agency said in a statement.

A former Navy test pilot, Young became an astronaut in 1962.

"Nasa and the world have lost a pioneer", Robert Lightfoot, Nasa administrator, said in the statement.

"If they have a hero, that hero is John Young", fellow astronaut Robert L. Crippen said in 2004.

Young's achievements were paired with a laconic style and a heartbeat that barely jumped after lift-off. "If we do not consider Flight Safety first all the time at all levels of Nasa, this machinery and this programme will NOT make it", he warned colleagues. "He was always questioning what we were doing and why we were doing it".

At NASA, Young enjoyed a notable career. His earliest voyage into space was on Gemini 3, the agency's first two-man flight, commanded by Virgil "Gus" Grissom, in 1965.

It was the safety measures put in place after the fire that got 12 men, Mr Young included, safely to the moon and back.

Young orbited the moon on Apollo 10 in May 1969 in preparation for the Apollo 11 landing that was to follow. 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. On Gemini 10, July 18-21, 1966, Young, as Commander, and Mike Collins, as Pilot, completed a dual rendezvous with two separate Agena target vehicles.

NASA Mourns Loss of Astronaut John Young, Visited the Moon Twice

In 1972, Young went on to command Apollo 16, and apparently all his experience hadn't made him blasé about space travel. He spent three lunar nights on the surface and drove more than 25km in a lunar rover. Young to become an on-the-spot lunar mechanic.

Young, described in a Nasa tweet as "our most experienced astronaut", retired in 2004 after 42 years with the USA space agency. He was on the first Gemini mission and he commanded the first shuttle flight. He was scheduled to fly for a seventh time to launch the Hubble Space Telescope in 1986, only to have that mission scrubbed following the loss of Space Shuttle Challenger.

Mr Young made his final trek into orbit aboard Columbia two years later, again as its skipper.

His Nasa career lasted 42 years, longer than any other astronaut's, and he was revered among his peers for his dogged dedication to keeping crews safe - and his outspokenness in challenging the space agency's status quo.

He was particularly outspoken after the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff on January 28, 1986, killing all seven crew members. Mr. Young said later that launching the space shuttle always scared him more than it thrilled him because so much could go wrong.

Space Shuttle mission STS-1 Commander John Young speaks during a press conference at the Visitors Complex at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida April 7, 2006. A few weeks later in 1967 those wires contributed to the fire that killed Mr Grissom, Edward White II and Roger Chaffee in a countdown practice on their Cape Canaveral launch pad.

Details about Young's death were not immediately released. He retired in 2004.

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