NASA Mourns Loss of Astronaut John Young, Visited the Moon Twice

US astronaut John Young, who walked on the moon in 1972 and even smuggled a corned beef sandwich into orbit during a career that made him the only person to fly with three NASA space programs, has died at age 87, officials said on Saturday.

He was 87 and died late Friday of complications from pneumonia, the space agency said.

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

A former Navy test pilot, Young became an astronaut in 1962.

NASA Mourns Loss of Astronaut John Young, Visited the Moon Twice
NASA Mourns Loss of Astronaut John Young, Visited the Moon Twice

Young was also one of NASA's longer serving astronauts. Together, they orbited Earth three times, testing thrusters that allowed the crew to maneuver in space, and was later reprimanded for smuggling a corn beef sandwich for the ride. Young then participated in the Gemini 3 mission (1965), before ordering Gemini 10 (1966), flying in orbit around the Moon with Apollo 10 (1969) and landing there with Apollo 16 in 1972. For ten days the 6-man crew worked 12-hour shifts around-the-clock, performing more than 70 experiments in the fields of atmospheric physics, Earth observations, space plasma physics, astronomy and solar physics, materials processing and life sciences.

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.

Image: NASA, Charles M. Duke Jr. In January 1974, he was selected to be Chief of the Astronaut Office, with responsibility for the coordination, scheduling, and control of activities of the astronauts.

Young's fifth flight was as Spacecraft Commander of STS-1, the first flight of the Space Shuttle, April 12-14, 1981, with Bob Crippen as Pilot. It was the first time NASA had ever launched a manned mission without first testing unmanned versions of the same vehicle. He later served as Special Assistant to the Director of Johnson Space Center for Engineering, Operations, and Safety. He retired at the end of 2004. Over his 42 year career at the space agency, Young played key roles in some of NASA's defining moments, and helped transition the agency from its focus on reaching the Moon with Gemini and Apollo to the Space Shuttle era. John Young was the only astronaut to have participated in the Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle projects.

  • Rogelio Becker