Astronaut John Young dies at 87

Adjust Comment Print

American astronaut John Young, who walked on the moon during Apollo 16 and commanded the first space shuttle mission, has died, NASA announced on Saturday. Bouncing along the lunar surface in a four-wheeled rover, he and Charlie Duke collected 200 pounds of rock specimens. 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. NASA said he died Friday night following complications from pneumonia.

In 1972, Young landed on the Moon himself during the Apollo 16 mission.

Retired NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong, left, retired astronaut Capt. Eugene Cernan, center, and retired astronaut John Young, appear on Capitol Hill May 26, 2010, in Washington, D.C.

The longest-serving astronaut in the space program, Young's career began as a Navy test flier. Young went to space six times, walked on the moon and was the only astronaut to take part in all of the Gemini, Apollo and shuttle programs.

It was on this mission that Young pulled his sandwich stunt, which did not make NASA brass happy but certainly pleased Grissom, the recipient of the snack. If you look at the inevitable consequences and you look at our technologies that we need to make it, you'd come to the same conclusion, and you know, it's doesn't take a lot of thinking, but somebody ought to be anxious about it. You can drop a pencil in zero gravity and look for it for three days. However, that was just one of a series of achievements.

NASA later rebuked Young for the antics, which generated criticism from lawmakers and the media, but his career did not suffer.

His sixth and final flight came in November 1983, when he commanded Columbia on the STS-9 mission, which tested out a variety of scientific experiments with the Spacelab module. "You know that alone would have qualified him for being in the Hall of Fame of astronaut careers", Chaikin said, "But the thing that really made him a true legend was in 1981 when he commanded the very first space shuttle mission".

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

He never went to space again. He was on the first Gemini mission and he commanded the first shuttle flight. NASA picked him in 1962 for its astronaut program. After receiving a degree in aeronautical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1952, he entered the Navy and graduated from its test pilot school.