John Watts Young, an American astronaut, naval officer and aeronautical engineer, passed away on Sunday following complications from pneumonia. He was 87 years old. Young is the only astronaut to go into space as part of the Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle programs, and the first to fly into space six times.
Young flew as commander on Gemini 10, the first mission to rendezvous with two separate spacecraft during the course of a single flight. He orbited the Moon in Apollo 10, and landed there as commander of the Apollo 16 mission. On STS-9, his final spaceflight, Young landed the space shuttle with a fire in the back end. Young was the ninth person to walk on the Moon and enjoyed the longest career of any astronaut over the course of 42 years of active NASA service.
He was the only person to have piloted and been commander of four different classes of spacecraft: Gemini, the Apollo Command/Service Module, the Apollo Lunar Module, and the Space Shuttle.
A statement issued by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said, “Today, NASA and the world have lost a pioneer. Astronaut John Young’s storied career spanned three generations of spaceflight. We will stand on his shoulders as we look toward the next human frontier.”
The NASA statement said Young was among the group of early space pioneers “whose bravery and commitment sparked USA’s first achievements in space.”
“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,” the statement continued.
“Between his service in the U.S. Navy, where he retired at the rank of captain, and his later work as a civilian at NASA, John spent his entire life in service to our country. His career included the test pilot’s dream of two ‘first flights’ in a new spacecraft – with Gus Grissom on Gemini 3, and as Commander of STS-1, the first space shuttle mission, which some have called ‘the boldest test flight in history.’”
“John Young was at the forefront of human space exploration with his poise, talent, and tenacity. He was in every way the astronaut’s astronaut. We will miss him.”