Apollo astronaut John Young dies at 87

Apollo astronaut John Young dies at 87

Apollo astronaut John Young dies at 87

"Astronaut John Young's storied career spanned three generations of spaceflight", NASA administrator Robert Lightfoot said in an emailed statement Saturday.

In 1981, Young commanded the inaugural flight of Nasa's first space shuttle, Columbia.

USA astronaut Terry Virts said in a tweet: "Rest In Peace John Young".

US astronaut Terry Virts said in a tweet: "Rest In Peace John Young".

The astronaut legend flew to space six times in the Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle Programs during his time NASA.

Counting his takeoff from the moon in 1972 as commander of Apollo 16, Young's blastoff tally stood at seven, for decades a world record. 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 the first Space Shuttle mission and had been to space multiple times in the Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle programs, the agency said in its tweet. Three years later he was selected as a NASA astronaut.

"The technical truth always has to be told, and telling it regardless of the consequences was one of my personality traits that people who knew me well learned to put up with", Young wrote in "Forever Young", his 2012 autobiography.

Apollo astronaut John Young dies at 87
Apollo astronaut John Young dies at 87

Young spent his last 17 years at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston in management, focusing on safety issues.

Young was born in San Francisco and grew up in Orlando.

"I got a telegram from the chief of naval operations", Young said in his understated way, "asking me not to do this any more". He went on to study aeronautical engineering at Georgia Tech, where he graduated with highest honors in 1952. But he was also described as a savvy engineer and a "test pilot's test pilot".

Fellow astronaut Charles Bolden called Young and Robert "Hoot" Gibson the two best pilots he had ever known.

He acknowledged being haunted by the deaths of the two shuttle crews and of close friend Grissom, killed with two other astronauts in the 1967 fire during a test countdown for what was to have been Apollo 1.

Young was married to the former Susy Feldman.

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