Astronaut John Young dies at 87

Astronaut John Young dies at 87

United States astronaut John Young, who walked on the moon in 1972 and was the only person to fly with three NASA space programs, has died aged 87.

He ended up as one of NASA's most experienced flyers, becoming the first astronaut to fly into space six times, and the only one to enter space in each of the Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle programs. Young received many special awards and recognitions, including the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1981, and he was inducted into six aviation and astronaut halls of fame. "They made it possible for the rest of us to do the nearly impossible".

Robert Crippen, Young's co-pilot on Columbia's successful maiden voyage in 1981, told The Associated Press that flying with Young was "a real treat".

His May 1969 Apollo 10 mission served as a "dress rehearsal" for the historic Apollo 11 mission two months later in which Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon.

Mr Young made his final trek into orbit aboard Columbia two years later, again as its skipper. Young said later that launching the space shuttle always scared him more than it thrilled him because so much could go wrong. "If we do not consider Flight Safety first all the time at all levels of Nasa, this machinery and this programme will NOT make it", he warned colleagues. He took pictures of the nose-diving crew cabin. He flew on the first manned flight of the Gemini spacecraft in 1965 (and led a flight in 1966), traveled to the Moon twice (including a moonwalk during Apollo 16) and played a key role in the rescue of Apollo 13 by helping to stretch out its resources.

Astronaut John Young dies at 87

"The country needs it. I'm not going to be here that long". He was graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1952 with a degree in aeronautical engineering.

He went on to join the Navy and serve in Korea. He retired in 2004. But he was also described as a savvy engineer and a "test pilot's test pilot".

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

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.

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