Former Navy pilot John Young, the only NASA astronaut to fly in space as a crewmember aboard the Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle programs, died Friday following complications from pneumonia. He was also the first astronaut to fly in space on six different occasions. Young was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1988.
Young was born in San Francisco and graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a degree in aeronautical engineering. He began his naval career on a destroyer before becoming a pilot in 1959. Young was selected as an astronaut in 1962 and served as NASA’s chief astronaut from 1974 to 1987, retiring from NASA in 2004.
Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said Young’s career included two first flights in a new spacecraft — with Gus Grissom on Gemini 3, and as Commander of STS-1, the first space shuttle mission, which some have called "the boldest test flight in history." He was Commander on Gemini 10, the first mission to rendezvous with two separate spacecraft during the course of a single flight and orbited the Moon in Apollo 10 and landing there as Commander of the Apollo 16 mission. Lightfoot added “on STS-9, his final spaceflight, and in an iconic display of test pilot cool, he landed the space shuttle with a fire in the back end.”
Lightfoot continued, “John Young was at the forefront of human space exploration with his poise, talent, and tenacity. He was in every way the 'astronaut’s astronaut.' John was one of that group of early space pioneers whose bravery and commitment sparked our nation's first great achievements in space. But, not content with that, his hands-on contributions continued long after the last of his six spaceflights — a world record at the time of his retirement from the cockpit. I 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 perfect question — followed by his iconic phrase, “Just asking...”