January 6, 2018 9:10 p.m.- John Watts Young (September 24, 1930 – January 5, 2018) was an American astronaut, naval officer and aviator, test pilot, and aeronautical engineer, who became the ninth person to walk on the Moon as Commander of the Apollo 16 mission in 1972. Young enjoyed the longest career of any astronaut, becoming the first person to fly six space missions (with seven launches) over the course of 42 years of active NASA service.He was the only person to have piloted, and been commander of, four different classes of spacecraft: Gemini, the Apollo Command/Service Module, the Apollo Lunar Module, and the Space Shuttle.
In 1965, Young flew on the first manned Gemini mission, and commanded another Gemini mission the next year. In 1969 during Apollo 10, he became the first person to fly solo around the Moon. He drove the Lunar Roving Vehicle on the Moon’s surface during Apollo 16, and is one of only three people to have flown to the Moon twice. He also commanded two Space Shuttle flights, including its first launch in 1981, and served as Chief of the Astronaut Office from 1974–1987. Young retired from NASA in 2004. He died on January 5, 2018.
— Young, describing an air-to-air missile test in which he and another pilot approached each other at Mach 3 – risking destruction of both aircraft.
After graduating from Georgia Tech in 1952, Young entered the United States Navy through the Navy ROTC and was commissioned on June 6, 1952, as an ensign. He served as fire control officer on the destroyer USS Laws until June 1953 and completed a tour in the Sea of Japan during the Korean War. Following this assignment, he was sent to flight training. In January 1954, he was designated a Navy helicopter pilot.After receiving his aviator wings on December 20, 1954, he was assigned to Fighter Squadron 103 (VF-103) for four years, flying Grumman F-9 Cougars from USS Coral Sea and Vought F-8 Crusaders from USS Forrestal.
After training at the United States Naval Test Pilot School in 1959 with the Class 23, Young was assigned to the Naval Air Test Center at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, for three years. His test projects included evaluations of the XF8U-3 Crusader III and F-4 Phantom II fighter weapons systems. In 1962, he set two world time-to-climb records while flying his Phantom II, attaining 3,000 meters (9,843 ft) from a standing start in 34.523 seconds and 25,000 meters (82,021 ft) from a standing start in 227.6 seconds.He also served as maintenance officer of Fighter Squadron 143 (VF-143) from April to September 1962.
Fellow astronaut Charles Bolden described Young and Robert “Hoot” Gibson as the two best pilots he had met during his aviation career: “Never met two people like them. Everyone else gets into an airplane; John and Hoot wear their airplane. They’re just awesome”.Young retired from the Navy as a Captain in September 1976, after 25 years.
He logged more than 15,275 hours flying time in props, jets, helicopters, and rocket jets; more than 9,200 hours in T-38s; and 835 hours in spacecraft during six space flights.
We’re saddened to learn of the passing of Capt (Ret) John Young. In addition to being known as the “astronaut’s astronaut”, flying 2 Gemini, 2 Apollo, 2 Shuttle flights and being one of the 12 humans to walk on the moon, Captain Young was a graduate of the U. S. Naval Test Pilot School and lifetime member of the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum Association.
Images via Patuxent River Naval Air Museum Facebook