Astronaut and First Space Shuttle Commander John Young Has Passed Away
Astronaut John Young has walked on the moon, flown to the moon twice, flown the space shuttle six times, and generally had an extremely long record of exploits that most aspiring astronauts dream of doing, to the point that NASA referred to him as "the astronaut's astronaut."
According to a statement released by NASA, Young has passed away this weekend at age 87, due to complications from pneumonia. NASA administrator Robert Lightfoot was quoted as saying the following:
John was one of that group of early space pioneers whose bravery and commitment sparked our nation's first great achievements in space. But, not content with that, his hands-on contributions continued long after the last of his six spaceflights — a world record at the time of his retirement from the cockpit."
Over his 42 year career, which followed a shorter career as a Navy pilot in the Korean War, Young was part of an unprecedented amount of space missions, and he commanded a good deal of them. He flew in the Gemini 3 mission to low-Earth orbit in 1965, one of NASA's first manned missions, and was part of several similar missions as the agency experimented with letting humans orbit around the planet for the first time.
He was also the first and only person to get yelled at by Congress for sneaking a corned beef sandwich into space, attempting to eat it during the Gemini 3 mission before it broke into crumbs in all the zero-gravity.
We're saddened by the loss of astronaut John Young, who was 87. Young flew twice to the Moon, walked on its surface & flew the first Space Shuttle mission. He went to space six times in the Gemini, Apollo & Space Shuttle programs. pic.twitter.com/l4nSwUCMIq— NASA (@NASA) January 6, 2018
After that, he joined the Apollo Program, and made his first approach to the moon in May 1969 on the Apollo 10 mission. He only orbited around the moon that time, as Neil Armstrong didn't become the first person to walk on its surface until Apollo 11 later that summer.
It was during the Apollo 16 mission in 1972 that Young became the ninth person to walk on the moon, and is one of only 12 people to have done so, since NASA shut down the Apollo program a few years after his return.
But Young continued to work off-world after that. He became the first commander of the Space Shuttle Program in 1981, when the shuttle flew into space for two days in 'the boldest test flight in history,' according to Lightfoot. His final trip to space was a mission in that program, STS-9, when Young managed to land the space shuttle while the back of it was on fire.
We remember our most experienced astronaut, John Young.— NASA (@NASA) January 6, 2018
"Today, NASA and the world have lost a pioneer." Full statement from our Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot on the passing of Young: https://t.co/WI6BDpbQ7e pic.twitter.com/WeRxkBGAZB
John Young may not be a household name like Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin, but he was still among the only people in history to have set foot on the moon. As of now, only five astronauts who've done the same are still living today.