John Young - The Passing of a Legend


Former astronaut John 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 complications from pneumonia, NASA said Saturday.

Retired astronaut Walter Cunningham mourned the loss of former colleague John Young during an interview with Newsmax TV. He flew twice during the two-man Gemini missions of the mid-1960s, twice to the moon during Nasa's Apollo program, and twice more aboard the new space shuttle Columbia in the early 1980s.

"Astronaut John Young's storied career spanned three generations of spaceflight", Robert Lightfoot, NASA's administrator, said in a statement.

Young's fifth space mission was as commander of the inaugural flight of NASA's first space shuttle, Columbia, in 1981.

Young's career at NASA stretched for 42 years, during which he became the first human to fly in space six times. "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...'

Young remained an active astronaut into his early 70s, long after all his peers had left, and held on to his role as NASA's conscience until his retirement in 2004.

He was part of the first manned Gemini mission - with Gus Grissom on Gemini 3 in 1965.

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"Today, NASA and the world have lost a pioneer". Young became the ninth person to walk on the moon during Apollo 16.

Not many people argued with John Young. "John leaves a tremendous legacy of accomplishment, in addition to his wonderful family", Bush said. 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.

Former President George H.W. Bush called Young a "fearless patriot". "He was in every way the 'astronaut's astronaut.' We will miss him".

John Young was at the forefront of human space exploration with his poise, talent, and tenacity.

He spent his last 17 years at Nasa's Johnson Space Center in Houston in management, focusing on safety issues.

A US destroyer and a stretch of Florida State Road 423 that runs through Orlando, called John Young Parkway, are named in his honor.

"This is the world's greatest flying machine, I'll tell you that", Young said as the orbiter came to a wheels stop under his control.