Legendary astronaut John Young dies at 87

Former astronaut John Young, a NASA trailblazer whose six journeys into space included a walk on the moon and commanding the first space shuttle flight, died Friday after complications from pneumonia, NASA said Saturday.

Born on September 24th, 1930, Young attended the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he earned his degree in aeronautical engineering in 1952.

In 1969, Young was the commander of the Apollo 10 flight to the Moon, a preparation flight for the eventual Apollo 11 Moon landing several months later. From there, he joined the US Navy, served aboard the USS LAWS during the Korean War, and went on to attend the Navy Test Pilot School. He became the first person to fly six space missions in 1983, when he commanded Columbia on the first Spacelab trek, with the crew performing more than 70 scientific experiments. "If anybody deserves the title of legend it would be John Young", Andrew Chaikin, who has written extensively on NASA, told NPR. Young died age of 87. Together, they orbited Earth three times, testing thrusters that allowed the crew to maneuver in space, and was later reprimanded for smuggling a corn beef sandwich for the ride.

Ten years later, he was selected to join NASA and in 1965 he made he made his first trip to space with Gus Grissom on Gemini 3. Young remained in the command capsule as Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan descended in a lunar module to within 9 miles of the moon's surface.

The Apollo 16 mission in April 1972, his fourth space flight, took Young to the lunar surface.

In 1981, Young commanded the shuttle program's inaugural mission, orbiting Earth 37 times in the Columbia.

He retired from NASA in December 2004. He served as chief of NASA's astronaut corps from 1974 to 1987, overseeing 25 shuttle flights during the program's formative years. He was scheduled to fly for a seventh time to launch the Hubble Space Telescope in 1986, only to have that mission scrubbed following the loss of Space Shuttle Challenger. According to media reports, Young smuggled a corned beef sandwich in his spacesuit, a move that didn't sit well with NASA staff in Houston who anxious about the crumbs. He flew into space twice during NASA's Gemini program in the mid-1960s, twice on the Apollo lunar missions and twice on space shuttles in the 1980s.

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