USA astronaut John Young dies at age 87

USA astronaut John Young dies at age 87

John Young, one of only 12 people to have walked on the Moon, has died aged 87, NASA has announced.

Young passed away from complications of pneumonia at the age of 87 on Friday. 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.

He completed six spaceflights during his career, which was a world record at the time of his retirement. He was part of the Apollo 10 crew that orbited the moon in May 1969 in preparation for the first landing later that year.

"Today, NASA and the world have lost a pioneer", acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement. 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.

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Young began his career at NASA in 1962, when he was selected from hundreds of young pilots to join NASA's second astronaut class.

"I thought returning safely to Earth sounded like a good idea", quips Young, who has stood on the Moon, driven 16 miles in a lunar rover and spent three nights on the lunar surface. It's not like being in zero gravity, you know. He was best known as the commander of the first Space Shuttle mission, taking Columbia into orbit in 1981. "You've just got to hang in there". Two years later he became the first person to fly six space missions when he commanded Columbia on the first Spacelab mission. Young had been due to command a 1986 flight that was canceled after the explosion of the shuttle Challenger earlier that year.

Young was born on September 24, 1930, in San Francisco and grew up in Orlando, Florida. It was the first time a piloted spacecraft was tested in space without previous orbital flights with nobody on board. After receiving a degree in aeronautical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1952, he entered the Navy and graduated from its test pilot school.

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