Remembering former Pax River Test Pilot and Astronaut

Hollywood, MD- Former Navy Test pilot and NASA astronaut John Young died Friday, Jan. 5 from complications from pneumonia.

Young, who was stationed at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River for three years, had an impressive history with NASA. Young was the first astronaut to fly into space six times. He was also part of the Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle programs and walked on the moon.

Young walked on the moon in 1972 during the Apollo 16 mission and was the first to command a space shuttle mission.

Young graduated from Georgia Tech in 1952 and entered the United States Navy. In 1952, he was commissioned as a Naval officer. In January 1954, he was designated a Navy helicopter pilot. In 1959, he was assigned to the Naval Air Test Center at NAS Patuxent River.

During his three years as a test pilot at NAS Patuxent River, he set two world time-to-climb records; Phantom II, attaining 9,843 feet from a standing start in 34.52 seconds and 82,021 feet from a standing start in 227.6 seconds.

Young retired from the U.S. Navy as a captain in 1976 after 25 years of service to our country.

Young’s 42 year career with NASA started in 1962, where he was selected from among hundreds of young pilots to join NASA’s second astronaut class, known as the “New Nine.”

NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said, “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.

“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.”

Young had the longest career of any astronaut. In 1965, Young flew the first manned Gemini mission. In 1969, he was the first person to fly solo around the moon. Young is one of just three astronauts to have flown to the moon twice.

Young commanded two space shuttle flights, including its first launch in 1981. He served as chief of the Astronaut Office from 1974 to 1987.

Lightfoot reflected, “Between his service in the U.S. Navy, where he retired at the rank of captain, and his later work as a civilian at NASA, John spent his entire life in service to our country. His career included the test pilot’s dream of two ‘first flights’ in a new spacecraft -- with Gus Grissom on Gemini 3, and as Commander of STS-1, the first space shuttle mission, which some have called ‘the boldest test flight in history.’ He flew as commander on Gemini 10, the first mission to rendezvous with two separate spacecraft the course of a single flight. He orbited the Moon in Apollo 10, and landed there as Commander of the Apollo 16 mission. On STS-9, his final spaceflight, and in an iconic display of test pilot ‘cool,’ he landed the space shuttle with a fire in the back end.”

Young retired from NASA in 2004.

“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,” Lightfoot stated.

Young was 87.

Contact Joy Shrum at

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