John Young, US astronaut and pioneer, dies aged 87

Jan 07, 2018, 01:04

Young was the first person to travel to space six times and the ninth of 12 scientists to set foot on the lunar surface.

Astronaut Wally Schirra, who was not flying on the mission, bought the corned beef sandwich on rye bread from a delicatessen in Cocoa Beach, Florida, and asked Young to give it to Grissom in space.

In a post on Twitter, NASA called Young their "most experienced astronaut".

In an interview with the Houston Chronicle in 2004, Young recalled: "One-sixth gravity on the surface of the moon is just delightful". NASA said he died Friday night following complications from pneumonia.

Young joined NASA in 1962. He flew the first space shuttle mission. That crew later became the prime crew for Apollo 10, which performed a "dress rehearsal" in May 1969 for the Apollo 11 mission later that summer.

He and crewmate Charles Duke gathered rock and soil samples and drove the lunar rover more than 16 miles (26km). Young and his crew undertook each aspect of that subsequent mission except for an actual moon landing. He commanded the Apollo 16 mission to the moon in 1972.

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After his return to Earth, the shuttle would become Young's next focus. It was the first time NASA put men on a vehicle's initial voyage, and the earliest manned spacecraft launched by solid rocket boosters. According to media reports, Young smuggled a corned beef sandwich in his spacesuit, a move that didn't sit well with NASA staff in Houston who anxious about the crumbs.

Young, left, with Robert Crippen, flew Columbia on STS-1, the Shuttle program's maiden flight in 1981. NASA promoted him to Chief of the Space Shuttle Branch of the Astronaut Office in 1973, and then the entire Astronaut Office, which oversees training and operations of the Astronaut corps.

"I wrote my memos to hit people over the head: with facts, with what-ifs, with contingencies, with options to contingencies, and with the stupidity and danger of absurd and ludicrous bureaucratic decisions", Young wrote about the 2003 loss of the shuttle Columbia and seven more lives.

John Watts Young was born September 24, 1930, in San Francisco to William Young and Wanda Howland Young. Young had been due to command a 1986 flight that was canceled after the explosion of the shuttle Challenger earlier that year.

Young earned a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta in 1952.

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