By JUSTIN EVANS
John Young was born in San Francisco, CA and grew up in Orlando, FL. He graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1952 with a degree in aeronautical engineering.
He joined the Navy, serving on a destroyer before becoming a pilot in 1959. Three years later he was chosen to be a NASA astronaut. He spent a total of 835 hours in space, NASA said. He served as chief astronaut from January 1974 until May 1987. He retired at the end of 2004.
Young, a NASA trailblazer whose six journeys into space included a walk on the moon and commanding the first space shuttle flight, died Friday after pneumonia complications, NASA said Saturday. He was 87 years old.
“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,” NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said.
Young, a former Navy pilot, was a member of the second group of astronauts the space agency hired, brought aboard in 1962 to add to the original Mercury Seven who had been selected three years earlier.
He ended up as one of NASA’s most professional flyers, becoming the first astronaut to fly into space six times, and the only one to enter space in each of the Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle programs. He took part in the first manned Gemini mission with Gus Grissom on Gemini 3 in 1965. According to various media reports, Young smuggled a corned beef sandwich in his spacesuit, a move that didn’t sit well with NASA staff in Houston who worried about the crumbs.
Young had later commanded the first space shuttle flight, with pilot Bob Crippen, over three days in April 1981.
Former President George H.W. Bush had stated that 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.”
“Barbara and I join our fellow Americans and many friends in the space community in mourning the loss of astronaut John Young,” Bush said in a statement. “To us, he represented the best in the American spirit — always looking forward, always reaching higher.