President HW Bush offers condolences on passing of astronaut John Young

John Young, a legendary United States astronaut who went into space six times, orbited the moon and then walked on its craggy surface, has died, NASA announced Saturday.

Young was an aeronautical engineer who later in his NASA career served as the chief of the astronaut office, choosing those who would fly on the shuttle.

Young was the only astronaut to have flown into space six times.

Throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, Mr Young maintained Nasa should be developing massive rockets to lift payloads to the moon to industrialise it, he said, and building space systems for detecting and deflecting comets or asteroids that could threaten Earth. He was on the first Gemini mission and he commanded the first shuttle flight. "Astronaut John Young's storied career spanned three generations of spaceflight; we will stand on his shoulders as we look toward the next human frontier", NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement. Young flew twice to the Moon, walked on its surface & flew the first Space Shuttle mission. He spent 42 years at the agency, retiring in 2004.

News of his death prompted tributes, including from fellow astronauts who called him a "hero" and "astronauts' astronaut", and from former President George H.W. Bush.

"To us, he represented the best in the American spirit - always looking forward, always reaching higher", the statement read.

President HW Bush offers condolences on passing of astronaut John Young

He hung on for the space shuttle, commanding Columbia's successful maiden voyage in 1981 with co-pilot Robert Crippen by his side. "Anybody who ever flew in space admired John", he said.

It was the safety measures put in place after the fire that got 12 men, Mr Young included, safely to the moon and back.

Remembering Young, Lightfood further said, "I participated in many Space Shuttle Flight Readiness Reviews with John, and will always remember him as the classic "hell of an engineer" from Georgia Tech, who had an uncanny ability to cut to the heart of a technical issue by posing the flawless question - followed by his iconic phrase, 'Just asking...'"

Young was born on September 24, 1930, in San Francisco and grew up in Orlando, Florida. "May his memory serve to inspire future generations of explorers to dare greatly, act boldly, and serve selflessly". Young then participated in the Gemini 3 mission (1965), before ordering Gemini 10 (1966), flying in orbit around the Moon with Apollo 10 (1969) and landing there with Apollo 16 in 1972. He showed us the space shuttle trainer in Building 9, were astronauts learn how to fly the orbiter. He retired in 2004.

He joined the Navy, serving on a destroyer before becoming a pilot in 1959.

  • Tracy Klein