'Fearless' astronaut John Young dies at 87

Lester Mason
January 9, 2018

Former NASA astronaut John Young, who walked on the Moon, and later commanded the first space shuttle flight, died on Friday night, NASA said on Saturday.

"Today, NASA and the world have lost a pioneer", acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement.

Young, a former Navy pilot, was part of the second group of astronauts the space agency hired, brought aboard in 1962 to add to the original Mercury Seven who'd been selected three years earlier. "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". Together, they orbited Earth three times, testing thrusters that allowed the crew to maneuver in space, and was later reprimanded for smuggling a corn beef sandwich for the ride.

In May 1969, Young flew to the Moon aboard Apollo 10.

"The country needs that shuttle mighty bad", Young said. He walked on the moon in 1972, and piloted the first Space Shuttle flight in 1981. "I participated in many Space Shuttle Flight Readiness Reviews with John, and will always remember him as the classic 'hell of an engineer" from Georgia Tech, who had an uncanny ability to cut to the heart of a technical issue by posing the ideal question - followed by his iconic phrase, 'Just asking...' In total, he spent 835 hours in space flights.

During a 42-year career, Young flew on three types of spacecraft twice spanning three decades: Gemini in the mid-1960s, Apollo in late '60s and early 1970s, and shuttles in the 1980s. He retired in 2004.

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.

As a Navy pilot, he logged more than 15,275 hours in props, jets, helicopters and rocket jets. Young graduated from Orlando High School and then earned a degree in aeronautical engineering from Georgia Tech, where he graduated with highest honors in 1952.

After graduation, he entered the U.S. Navy, including serving on the destroyer USS Laws in the Korean War.

Retired U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly said he was saddened by the loss and called Young in a tweet "the astronauts' astronaut, a true legend".

"The moon is a very nice place", Young said after touching down in the Descartes highlands.

Former President George H.W. Bush said Young was "more than a good friend; he was a fearless patriot whose courage and commitment to duty helped our nation push back the horizon of discovery at a critical time".

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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