Pioneering spacefarer flew twice to the moon, commanded the
first Space Shuttle mission
Space pioneer John W. Young, a man who flew twice to the moon,
walked on its surface and commanded the first Space Shuttle
mission, is retiring.
Young's achievements during his 42-year career at NASA are
unmatched. He was the first human to fly in space six times and
launch seven times, six times from Earth and once from the moon. He
is the only astronaut to pilot four different types of spacecraft,
flying in the Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle programs. Young is
the longest serving astronaut in history. His retirement from NASA
is effective December 31.
"John's tenacity and dedication are matched only by his
humility," said NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe. "He's never sought
fame and often goes out of his way to avoid the limelight. However,
when you need a job done and you want it done right, John's the
person to go to. He's a true American treasure, and his exemplary
legacy will inspire generations of new explorers for years to
Young, a native of Orlando (FL), retired U.S. Navy Captain and
test pilot, joined NASA in 1962. His first mission was as pilot of
the maiden manned flight of the Gemini Program, Gemini 3, in 1965.
With Young and Commander Virgil Grissom on board, Gemini 3 was the
first American space flight with more than one person.
He next flew in 1966,
commanding Gemini 10. Along with Mike Collins, he performed the
first dual rendezvous maneuvers during a single mission.
In 1969, two months before man's first landing on the moon,
Young orbited Earth's satellite. Young orbited the moon in the
Apollo Command Module, while his fellow crewmembers, Thomas
Stafford and Eugene Cernan, descended to within 50,000 feet of its
surface in the Lunar Module. Apollo 10 was a full rehearsal for the
first lunar landing.
Young returned to the moon in 1972 as commander of Apollo 16. He
piloted the Lunar Module to a landing on the surface, along with
Charlie Duke. Young and Duke drove more than 16 miles across the
lunar surface in the Lunar Rover Vehicle, collecting more than 200
pounds of samples. It was the most extensive lunar exploration
mission to date.
"You run out of superlatives when you talk about Captain John
Young as a test pilot, astronaut and engineer," said former Space
Shuttle astronaut and Associate Administrator for Space Operations
William Readdy. "John has an incredible engineering mind, and he
sets the gold standard when it comes to asking the really tough
questions. When he talks, everybody listens. It's impossible to
overstate the positive impact John has had on human space flight
operations and safety. Beyond that, he has set a standard for
excellence for all those who have served with him and those who
will follow. He's truly an inspiration," Readdy said.
Young was at the helm of Columbia for the first Space Shuttle
mission, STS-1 in 1981, with Robert Crippen as pilot. It was the
world's first flight of a reusable, winged spacecraft; the first
landing of a spacecraft on a runway; and the largest, heaviest
craft to launch and land to date. It was the first time a manned
spacecraft was launched without previous unmanned test flights.
Young guided the 96-ton Columbia to a perfect touchdown at Edwards
Air Force Base (CA) after a two-day mission.
Young's sixth and final space mission was again in command of
Columbia on the ninth Shuttle flight, STS-9 in 1983. It was the
first launch of the Spacelab laboratory in the Shuttle's cargo bay.
It was the longest Shuttle flight to date, with the first
international crew working around the clock for 10 days to conduct
more than 70 experiments.
When he was not in flight, Young's extensive contributions
continued on the ground. He served as chief of NASA's Astronaut
Office for 13 years. He also served eight years as an assistant and
associate director of NASA's Johnson Space Center, providing advice
and counsel on technical, operational and safety matters.
"John Young has no equal in his service to our country and to
humanity's quest for space," said the Director of NASA's Johnson
Space Center, Jefferson D. Howell Jr. "He is the astronaut's
astronaut, a hero among heroes who fly in space. His achievements
have taken space from an unknown environment to the expanding
frontier we explore today. His steady hand and unflinching eyes
have served our cause of space exploration well, expanding our
horizons with unshakable dedication and calm courage. He will be
missed," Howell said.