John Young, America's ‘most experienced astronaut’ who walked on the Moon during the Apollo programme and commanded the first space shuttle mission, has passed away, NASA said on Saturday.
Young died on Friday night following complications from pneumonia. He was 87 years old.
“Today, NASA and the world have lost a pioneer. 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,” acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement.
Young is the only US astronaut to go into space as part of the Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle programmes and the first person to fly into space six times.
Young made his first flight as an astronaut in 1965, joining astronaut Gus Grissom on Gemini 3, the first manned flight of the early NASA human spaceflight programme that helped the agency get ready for the Apollo moon landings.
Then, in 1966, he flew as Commander on Gemini 10, the first mission to rendezvous with two separate spacecrafts on the course of a single flight.
He also orbited the Moon in Apollo 10 in 1969 and landed there in 1972 as Commander of the Apollo 16 mission.
In 1981, he served as Commander of STS-1, the first space shuttle mission, which some have called "the boldest test flight in history."
Two years later, on STS-9, his final spaceflight, Young landed the space shuttle with a fire in the back end, according to NASA.
He retired from NASA in 2004.
“John was one of that group of early space pioneers whose bravery and commitment sparked our nation's first great achievements in space. But, not content with that, his hands-on contributions continued long after the last of his six spaceflights -- a world record at the time of his retirement from the cockpit,” Lightfood said.
“John Young was at the forefront of human space exploration with his poise, talent, and tenacity. He was in every way the 'astronaut’s astronaut.' We will miss him,” he added.
Astronaut John Young, who passed away at age 87, led a storied career that spanned three generations of spaceflight. He flew to space six times in the Gemini, Apollo & Space Shuttle programs. See images from his career: https://t.co/WOAGKrbo9h pic.twitter.com/WiqjvofHc8— NASA (@NASA) January 7, 2018
We mourn the passing of astronaut John Young, who began his career with us in 1962, when he was selected from hundreds of young pilots for our second astronaut class. Spanning three generations of spaceflight, he went on to fly in space six times. More: https://t.co/R5eY8MIaG9 pic.twitter.com/pkOFt6zzpL— NASA (@NASA) January 6, 2018