© SSPL/Getty Images

John Young: the astronaut’s life in pictures

US astronaut John Young, who walked on the Moon and commanded the first Space Shuttle mission, has died aged 87 - we look back at his life and achievements.

John Young (1930-2018)

John Watts Young, the US Apollo astronaut who twice walked on the Moon and commanded the first Space Shuttle mission, has died aged 87.

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© Bettmann/Getty Images
© Bettmann/Getty Images

A seasoned veteran of space

Nasa said of the space pioneer in a tweet “We’re saddened by the loss of astronaut John Young, who was 87. Young flew twice to the Moon, walked on its surface & flew the first Space Shuttle mission. He went to space six times in the Gemini, Apollo & Space Shuttle programs.”

© Ralph Morse/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
© Ralph Morse/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Born in 1930

Young was born in San Francisco on September 24, 1930 and joined the Navy in 1952, receiving his aviator wings two years later. In 1962 he was selected by NASA to join the Project Gemini, their second human spaceflight programme after Mercury.

© Ralph Morse/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
© Ralph Morse/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Gemini pilot

In 1965, together with Gus Grissom (L), Young piloted the first manned flight of Project Gemini as a replacement for Thomas P. Stafford after the original commander, Alan Shepard, was grounded due to illness.

© Time Life Pictures/NASA/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
© Time Life Pictures/NASA/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Making a meal of it

This cake wasn’t the only thing to welcome the astronauts on their return to Earth – Young received a stiff reprimand for smuggling a corned beef sandwich aboard Gemini 3.

© Time Life Pictures/NASA/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
© Time Life Pictures/NASA/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Second Gemini success

He next took to space as commander of Gemini 10, alongside pilot Michael Collins, in a mission that lasted 2 days, 22 hours, 46 minutes, 39 seconds.

© SSPL/Getty Images
© SSPL/Getty Images

Dress rehearsal for the Moon landing

His next mission was at the helm of Apollo 7, this first manned mission of the Apollo programme. Together with Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan, the crew would be reunited for Apollo 10, the dress rehearsal for the Moon landing. In this photo Young is showing a picture of Charlie Brown, which was the nickname of the Apollo 10 Command Module – the Lunar Module was called Snoopy, obviously.

© SSPL/Getty Images
© SSPL/Getty Images

Going solo

While the rest of the Apollo 10 crew headed towards the surface in the Lunar Module, Young remained onboard the Command Module, giving him the honour of being the first person to orbit the Moon solo.

© Bettmann/Getty Images
© Bettmann/Getty Images

Vetern Apollo astronaut

Twice more would John Young return to the Moon, getting his chance to walk on the lunar surface during Apollo 16 and reuniting with Eugene Cernan for the final Apollo mission.

© Bettmann/Getty Images
© Bettmann/Getty Images

Space Shuttle Commander

After the race to the Moon ended, John Young’s skills and expertise were used as NASA’s Chief of the Astronaut Office, and together with Robert Laurel Crippen in 12 April 1981 Commanded the first flight of the Space Shuttle era aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-1). Later he would command STS-9, which carried the first Spacelab module.

© NASA
© NASA

The longest-serving astronaut

Young retired from NASA in 2004 after a 42-year career, the longest of any astronaut, that saw him visit space on six separate occasions aboard four different vessels.

© Ralph Morse/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
© Ralph Morse/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

John Young with his family

Young had two children with his first wife (pictured) and is survived by his second wife.

He died on 5 January after complications with pneumonia.

© Ralph Morse/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
© Ralph Morse/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Astronaut John Young in space suit

© Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
© Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

President Ronald Reagan decorates Young and Robert L. Crippen after the first Space Shuttle mission

© Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images
© Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images

Dancing on the Moon during the Apollo 16 mission

© SSPL/Getty Images
© SSPL/Getty Images

Shaving while mission commander Thomas Stafford looks on during the Apollo 10 flight to the Moon

© Space Frontiers/Getty Images
© Space Frontiers/Getty Images

Young (left) and Robert Laurel Crippen give a thumbs up from the cockpit of the Space Shuttle Columbia

NASA astronauts John Watts Young (left) and Robert Laurel Crippen, the crew of the STS-1 mission on the space shuttle ‘Columbia’ (NASA Orbiter Vehicle OV-102), give a thumbs up from the cockpit of the shuttle at the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Florida, 20th October 1980.

© Garth Eliassen/Getty Images
© Garth Eliassen/Getty Images

A ticker tape parade after the Apollo 10 mission

Apollo 10 astronauts Gene Cernan, Tom Stafford, and John Young, with San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto, wave from a convertible limousine during a ticker tape parade in their honor down Montgomery Street, San Francisco, California, June 17, 1969. On the mission, Young was Command Module Pilot, Cernan was Lunar Module Pilot, and Stafford was Mission Commander. Their orbit of the moon (May 18 – May 26, 1969) served as a ‘dress rehearsal’ for the Apollo 11’s moon landing.

© Bettmann/Getty Images
© Bettmann/Getty Images

John Young logs flight data aboard shuttle

© Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
© Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Gemini-10 astronaut John W Young wearing his flight suit

© Underwood Archives/Getty Images
© Underwood Archives/Getty Images

Astronaut John Young gives the Lunar Roving Vehicle a speed workout

© NASA/Interim Archives/Getty Images
© NASA/Interim Archives/Getty Images

A Navy frogman assisting with the recovery of Gemini 10 holds the capsule door open as astronaut John Young exits the spacecraft, somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean

© Time Life Pictures/NASA/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
© Time Life Pictures/NASA/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Gemini 10 Astronaut John W. Young


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