John Young, Who Led First Space Shuttle Mission, Dies at 87

As Mr. Crippen put it: “It’s rare when an individual comes along that actually personifies his chosen profession, but rare is what John Young is.”

After serving as a Navy check pilot, Mr. Young joined NASA in 1962 at the outset of the Gemini program, a bridge between the missions of the unique Mercury 7 astronauts and the Apollo program, which despatched males to the moon.

Mr. Young flew twice in Gemini spaceships, flew on the Apollo mission that preceded Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s touchdown on the lunar floor and later drove a rover automobile via the moon’s highlands. He closed out his explorations of house by flying on two shuttle missions.

Mr. Young aboard Gemini three in March 1965 awaiting its launching. It was the primary manned mission of the Gemini program. He flew with Gus Grissom, who fired rockets to hold out the primary guide change of orbit in a spacecraft.


Mr. Young had a mischievous aspect and one thing of a rebellious streak. He smuggled a corned beef sandwich aboard Gemini three to the consternation of NASA officers, who feared that crumbs might have broken the spacecraft’s methods, although that didn’t occur.

On his flight to the moon, he complained graphically to his fellow crewmen about his flatulence, evidently attributable to the potassium-fortified orange juice he was required to drink. He thought he was talking on a closed radio circuit, however his microphone was open, and all of the world heard it.

While brainstorming technical issues in preparation for missions, Mr. Young typically displayed a straightforward and seemingly informal method.

“He drawled his way through conversation and gave the impression he was still the country boy who grew up in Orlando, Florida, back when it was mostly farmland,” Andrew Chaikin wrote in “A Man on the Moon” (1994).

“Some people saw the country-boy bit as an act; it wasn’t,” Mr. Chaikin continued. “It was just John’s way of getting the people around him to think a little harder about the problem. Inside Young was an unwavering determination, an overriding sense of responsibility — to the space country, to the program, to his crew — and an almost childlike sense of wonder at the universe.”

The crew of Apollo 10 in May 1969. From left, Eugene Cernan, Mr. Young and Thomas Stafford. Mr. Young commanded the craft because it orbited the moon whereas the others orbited under him within the lunar module, monitoring proposed websites for the primary lunar touchdown, which was carried out by Apollo 11.


John Watts Young was born on Sept. 24, 1930, in San Francisco, a son of William Young, a civil engineer, and the previous Wanda Howland. His father as soon as recalled that as a boy he would “draw pictures of airplanes and rockets.”

Mr. Young, who grew up in Orlando, Fla., went on to Georgia Tech, receiving a bachelor’s diploma in aeronautical engineering in 1952. He entered the Navy after graduating and flew fighters earlier than changing into a check pilot.

When President John F. Kennedy proposed touchdown a person on the moon in a nationally televised handle to a joint session of Congress in May 1961, Mr. Young was watching on a small black-and-white tv set at the Naval Air Test Center in Florida. He was enthralled by the problem and joined NASA in September 1962 as one in all 9 pilots chosen for the Gemini program.

In March 1965, Mr. Young flew in Gemini three, the primary manned mission of that program, with Virgil Grissom (who was referred to as Gus), who fired rockets to hold out the primary guide change of orbit in a spacecraft.

In July 1966, Mr. Young commanded Gemini 10, flying with Michael Collins, within the first dual-rendezvous spaceflight. Their craft docked with an Agena goal automobile whereas in orbit, then unlocked and got here inside inches of one other Agena, a prelude to the maneuvering that may be required on a mission to the moon.

Mr. Young addressing a memorial service in 2003 honoring the crew that perished within the re-entry disintegration of the shuttle Columbia that yr.

Mike Brown/Associated Press

On his third flight, in May 1969, two months earlier than the primary moonwalk, Mr. Young was the command module pilot of Apollo 10, orbiting the moon whereas Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan orbited under him within the lunar module, monitoring proposed touchdown websites.

While commanding the Apollo 16 mission in April 1972, Mr. Young, along with Charles Duke, drove the lunar rover automobile via the beforehand unexplored highlands of the moon, scooped up greater than 200 kilos of rocks, then returned to the command craft, piloted in orbit by Thomas Mattingly.

Mr. Young grew to become chief of NASA’s astronaut workplace in 1974. He retired from the Navy as a captain in 1976, however continued to fly for NASA as a civilian.

In April 1981, Mr. Young commanded the Columbia house shuttle, with Mr. Crippen because the pilot, within the first flight of a reusable winged spacecraft. They orbited the earth 36 occasions, then touched down on the dry lake mattress at Edwards Air Force Base, the primary touchdown of a spacecraft on a runway.

Mr. Young’s ultimate flight got here within the fall of 1983 when he commanded Columbia within the first launching of the European-built Spacelab laboratory, which was housed within the shuttle’s cargo bay. The six-man crew flew for 10 days, finishing up quite a few experiments.

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