Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle Astronaut John Young Passes Away

The only man to fly on Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle missions has passed away at the age of 87, from complications of pneumonia.

John W. Young is being hailed by fellow astronauts as the “astronauts’ astronaut” and former President George H.W. Bush called him “a fearless patriot whose courage and commitment to duty helped our Nation push back the horizon of discovery at a critical time.”

Young’s connection to the region came when he was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1982.  Via a news release, officials with the New Mexico Museum of Space History and International Space Hall of Fame extended “their deepest condolences to the family and friends of John Young, a true American hero.”

Born in San Francisco, CA, on September 24, 1930, Young first entered space as Pilot on Gemini III with Gus Grissom as Command Pilot. This was the first time the U.S. sent two men into space.  Next, in 1966, he was Command Pilot on Gemini X with Michael Collins as Pilot.

In 1969, he was Command Module Pilot for Apollo 10 along with Mission Commander Tom Stafford and Lunar Module Pilot Eugene Cernan. The mission was a “dress rehearsal” for Apollo 11.

As Mission Commander for Apollo 16, Young joined the prestigious ranks of the very few men who have walked on the surface of the moon. With Lunar Module Pilot Charles Duke, Young explored the moon’s Descartes Highlands from April 20-23, 1972.

Young made history with his fifth mission as Spacecraft Commander of STS-1 in 1981, the inaugural mission of the first Space Shuttle, Columbia. Young became the first person to fly four different types of spacecraft. His last mission was as Spacecraft Commander of STS-9 Columbia in 1983.

Young’s honors include the Congressional Space Medal of Honor (for commanding STS-1), four NASA Distinguished Service Medals, and the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal.  In addition, Young was a decorated Navy pilot.

Astronaut John Young is hoisted aboard a helicopter after his Gemini 10 flight in 1966. (Photo NASA)
Jumping on the moon and saluting the American flag, Astronaut John Young became one of the few people who have walked on the lunar surface during the Apollo 16 mission in 1972. (Photo NASA)