Moon walking American astronaut John Young died January 5 in his Houston home as a result of complications from pneumonia at the age of 87.
While Young was the ninth astronaut to walk on the moon, he was NASA’s most experienced space traveler having gone on six separate occasions – two Gemini missions, two Apollo missions, and two Shuttle missions. He is the only astronaut to have been a part of the Gemini, Apollo, and Space Shuttle programs during his 42 year NASA career.
Credited with being the first astronaut to make six trips into space, Young technically piloted seven vehicles when he was the pilot on both the ship and the lunar module on Apollo 16.
Around NASA Young was known for his memo writing, frequently citing safety issues and ways to fix them. Young once stated, “By whatever management methods it takes, we must make Flight Safety first. If we do not consider Flight Safety first all the time at all levels of NASA, this machinery and this program will NOT make it.”
Young became a part of the NASA space program. In 1962 along with Neil Armstrong, Pete Conrad, and James Lovell after being inspired by President Kennedy’s speech on putting a man on the moon. He became the first ember of his class to make it into space in 1965 in the for Gemini flight with Gus Grissom – the first manned Gemini flight. He was a part of Apollo 10 and 16; walking on the moon on Apollo 16. Enterprise was the first Space Shuttle created, but it was Columbia who made the maiden voyage with Young as its pilot. He made his final voyage into space again on the Columbia as a part of the ninth Shuttle mission and the first to meet up with Skylab. Young was also a member of five space flight backup crews.
Young logged a total of 835 hours in space and over 15,000 hours of flight time.
Known as a bit of a prankster, Young once snuck a corned beef sandwiches on board the spaceship and gave it to Grisson as part of the “official” NASA food. However, NASA and the US Congress were not pleased over the prank and thereafter banned corned beef sandwiches on board any spacecraft.
He was born John Watts Young on September 24, 1930 in San Francisco the son of a civil engineer, but grew up in Orlando only a couple of hours west of the Kennedy Space Center. Learning to read even before he went to school, Young noted that he could read the encyclopedia at age five.
He earned an aeronautical engineering degree from the Georgie Institute of Technology before entering the Navy and serving as a gunnery office during the Korean War conflict. After the war, Young became a test pilot for the Navy where re retired as a captain.
During his career Young earned a number of honours including the Congressional Space Medal of Honour, five Distinguished Service Medals – three from NASA and two from the Navy, an Outstanding Leadership Medal from NASA, two Distinguished Flying crosses, a Distinguished Young Alumni Award from Georgia Tech, an Exceptional Engineering Achievement Award, and the Space Flight Award from the American Astronautical Society. He is also a member of the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
Young was married to Susy Feldman. The couple had two children and three grandchildren.