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John Young (astronaut) at Apollo 16

John Young (astronaut) at Apollo 16 (Space)

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In picture: John Young jumps while saluting the American flag.

John Watts Young (born sep. 24, 1930 (89 years ago)) is a former NASA astronaut and engineer who walked on the Moon on Apr. 21, 1972 (47 years ago) during the Apollo 16 mission.

Young enjoyed one of the longest and busiest careers of any astronaut in the American space program. He twice journeyed to the Moon, was the first person to fly into space six times (seven if the flight from the Moon on the Apollo 16 mission is counted), and is the only person to have piloted in space four different classes of spacecraft: Gemini spacecraft, Apollo Command/Service Module, Apollo Lunar Module, and Space Shuttle (8 pics). Young also drove the Lunar Roving Vehicle on the moon's surface. He was the first person to orbit the moon alone (during the Apollo 10 mission), and was the commander of the first Space Shuttle (8 pics) mission in Apr. 1981 (38 years ago).

Early life and Navy career

Born in San Francisco, California and raised in the College Park neighborhood of Orlando, Florida, Young became a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity and earned a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering with highest honors from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1952 (67 years ago).

After graduation Young entered the United States Navy. He served as Fire Control Officer on the destroyer, USS Laws (DD-558) until Jun. 1953 (66 years ago) and completed a tour in the Korean Seas. He then became a fighter pilot, and in 1959 (60 years ago), a test pilot.

NASA career: Project Apollo

Young was assigned to the backup crew on Apollo 7 and later made the second manned flight to the Moon on Apollo 10 with Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan. While Stafford and Cernan flew the lunar module in lunar orbit for the first time, Young flew the command module solo - the first person to do so in lunar orbit. Young was backup commander of Apollo 13, the troubled mission in which the moon landing was aborted because of an explosion on the service module. Young had a central role in rescuing the Apollo 13 crew by participating in the team that developed procedures to stretch the LM consumables and reactivate the command module systems prior to re-entry.

By rotation, Young became commander of Apollo 16. Young became an enthusiastic student of geology while preparing for the moon mission. Apollo 16's lunar landing was almost aborted at the last moment when a malfunction was detected in the SPS engine control system in the service module. On the surface, Young trod the Descartes Highlands with Charles Duke (making Young the ninth person to walk upon the surface of the moon), while Ken Mattingly flew the command module in lunar orbit. Young set a speed record with the lunar rover but was troubled by the effects of potassium in the orange juice they drank during the moonwalks. He carried with him the badge and flag of the Sigma Chi Fraternity; these are on display at Sigma Chi's headquarters in Evanston, Illinois.

His final assignment in Apollo was as the backup commander on Apollo 17. This almost resulted in his second moon landing when Gene Cernan (Eugene Cernan) injured his knee playing softball a few months before the flight. The injury, had it been any more severe, would have resulted in Cernan being medically dropped from the flight and John Young commanding the last two moon landings of Apollo. In 1972 (47 years ago), Young became head of the Astronaut Office after the return of Deke Slayton to flight status.


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