Astronaut John Young, Who Walked on the Moon, Dies at 87

Astronaut John Young, Who Walked on the Moon, Dies at 87

Kenneth Drake
January 7, 2018

Astronaut John Young, a graduate of Orlando High School, died Saturday at 87, according to NASA. The agency didn't say where he died. 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.

"Today, NASA and the world have lost a pioneer".

Young's achievements were paired with a laconic style and a heartbeat that barely jumped after liftoff.

He retired from NASA in December 2004. "He was always questioning what we were doing and why we were doing it".

"If anybody deserves the title of legend it would be John Young", said Andrew Chaikin, an author who has written extensively on NASA.

In March 1965, he made his first flight as an astronaut, joining Gus Grissom on Gemini 3, the first manned flight of that program.

The next year, on Gemini 10, Young and Mike Collins completed a dual docking and other maneuvers as prelude to the Apollo program's quest to put a man on the moon. That crew later became the prime crew for Apollo 10, which performed a "dress rehearsal" in May 1969 for the Apollo 11 mission later that summer.

"The Moon is a very nice place", he had said. During that time, they performed rendezvous maneuvers with a pair of Agena target vehicles that were already in orbit.

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John Young salutes on the surface of the Moon on April 21, 1972.

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.

At NASA, Young enjoyed a notable career.

After his return to Earth, the shuttle would become Young's next focus.

In 1981, he served as Commander of STS-1, the first space shuttle mission, which some have called "the boldest test flight in history".

He commanded the Columbia again in 1983, his final journey into the cosmos. Young had been due to command a 1986 flight that was canceled after the explosion of the shuttle Challenger earlier that year. A memo he had sent three weeks earlier, leaked to the media after the tragedy, criticized NASA for compromising protection to meet launch schedules. ABC News last interviewed Young in 2003, after the space shuttle Columbia accident. He also advised on engineering, operations and safety matters. "In retrospect, it's just so damn hard to believe that we hadn't pinpointed the problem".

Born in San Francisco in 1930, Young joined the US Navy in 1952. Chris Hadfield: "An astronauts astronaut, a fearless individual, and a good friend".

Young was married to the former Susy Feldman.