Astronaut John Young Dead


John Young, NASA’s longest-serving astronaut and the first to command the Space Shuttle, died Friday. He was 87 and died from complications from pneumonia. Young went to space six times, walked on the moon and was the only astronaut to take part in all of the Gemini, Apollo and shuttle programs. “If anybody deserves the title of legend it would be John Young,” Andrew Chaikin, who has written extensively on NASA, told NPR.

Young kept a low public profile but was a commanding presence within the organization. He retired in 2004 having served as the chief of the astronaut office, responsible for crew selection. “Astronaut John Young’s storied career spanned three generations of spaceflight; we will stand on his shoulders as we look toward the next human frontier,” NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement. Young flew two Gemini, two Apollo and two shuttle missions and considered the first shuttle flight the most dangerous. It was the first time NASA had ever launched a manned mission without first testing unmanned versions of the same vehicle.