Remembering John Young: NASA's 'Most Experienced' Astronaut Dies At 87

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Accomplished astronaut John Young passed away last Jan. 5 at the age of 87. He is considered as NASA's "most experienced" astronaut because of his life-long dedication to the agency's programs.

NASA's 'Most Experienced' Astronaut

On Jan. 5 John Young, one of the very few humans who have had the opportunity to walk on the surface of the moon, passed away due to complications from pneumonia. He is remembered by the many who admire him, and by the agency where he accomplished many great feats.

The space agency has dubbed John Young as their most experienced astronaut and for good reason. He began his journey at NASA in 1962 when he was chosen as one of nine members of the agency's second astronaut class, beating hundreds of hopefuls who submitted their applications. He made his first flight aboard the Gemini 3 in March of 1965 where he operated the first computer on a manned spacecraft.

Since then, he went on more space flights including the Apollo 16 lunar exploration mission where he and his colleagues explored the lunar surface, collecting 200 pounds of lunar rocks and driving 16 miles in the lunar rover.

An Impressive Career

Young is the first person to fly into space six times. He commanded the Space Shuttle program's maiden flight and is the only person to fly to space as part of the Gemini, Apollo, and space shuttle programs. What's more, he was also a part of backup spaceflight crews for five missions including the Gemini 6, Apollo 13, and Apollo 17.

In the span of his career, he logged 835 hours of space flight and 15,275 hours of flying on jets, helicopters, rocket jets, and props. He was honored with over 80 major awards and given four honorary doctorate degrees.

Even after his many space flights, Young continued to serve NASA as the Space Shuttle Branch of the Astronaut Office's chief in 1973 and served as the chief of the Astronaut Office until 1987. He was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1988 and retired in 2004.

"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.' We will miss him," said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot in a statement.

In the course of John Young's life, the boy who simply enjoyed building model airplanes ended up making massive strides for humanity and inspiring the next generation of aspiring astronauts.

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