John Young, US astronaut and pioneer, dies aged 87

John Young, US astronaut and pioneer, dies aged 87

Veteran astronaut John Young archived a number of milestones over the course of his 42 year career at NASA: a Navy pilot who served during the Korean War, he flew in space six time with some of the agency's biggest programs, was the ninth person to walk on the moon, and the first to pilot the Space Shuttle.

Young was born on September 24, 1930, in San Francisco and grew up in Orlando, Florida.

Young made a return trip to the Moon as commander of Apollo 16 in April 1972. He was an aviator in the Korean War and remained in the Navy as a test pilot until joining the astronaut corps. "John Young was at the forefront of human space exploration with his poise, talent, and tenacity".

Young, left, with Robert Crippen, flew Columbia on STS-1, the Shuttle program's maiden flight in 1981.

He also once famously smuggled a corned beef sandwich on to a space flight as a gift for a fellow astronaut. During that time, they performed rendezvous maneuvers with a pair of Agena target vehicles that were already in orbit. 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 spent three lunar nights on the surface and drove more than 25km in a lunar rover. Young flew twice to the Moon, walked on its surface & flew the first Space Shuttle mission.

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After his return to Earth, the shuttle would become Young's next focus.

NASA said Young was the only agency astronaut to go into space as part of the Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle programs, and the first to fly into space six times. Nasa later rebuked him for the stunt. 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. He flew on the first manned flight of the Gemini spacecraft in 1965 (and led a flight in 1966), traveled to the Moon twice (including a moonwalk during Apollo 16) and played a key role in the rescue of Apollo 13 by helping to stretch out its resources.

Young served in many capacities at NASA including: Chief of the Space Shuttle Branch, Chief of the Astronaut Office, Technical Associate Director and more.

"Today, NASA and the world have lost a pioneer", NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement Saturday.

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