'Fearless' astronaut John Young dies at 87

'Fearless' astronaut John Young dies at 87

USA astronaut John Young, who walked on the moon in 1972 and even smuggled a corned beef sandwich into orbit during a career that made him the only person to fly with three NASA space programs, has died at age 87, officials said on Saturday. On his record-setting sixth and last spaceflight, when he flew the first Spacelab module into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle, he both avoided a mid-flight disaster and landed while an auxiliary power unit was on fire. "He went to space six times in the Gemini, Apollo & Space Shuttle programs", NASA tweeted. "If anybody deserves the title of legend it would be John Young", Andrew Chaikin, who has written extensively on NASA, told NPR. He was also a recipient of more than 80 other major awards, according to NASA.

In April 1972, aboard Apollo 16, Young became the ninth member of the exclusive club of moon walkers.

He flew into space six times during his 42 year career at NASA, including two trips to the moon. It's not like being in zero gravity, you know.

In 1981, meanwhile, he commanded the first space shuttle flight.

It was on this mission that Young pulled his sandwich stunt, which did not make NASA brass happy but certainly pleased Grissom, the recipient of the snack.

As then chief of the astronaut corps, Mr Young was flying a shuttle training aircraft above Kennedy Space Centre when Challenger ruptured.

'Fearless' astronaut John Young dies at 87

Chaikin says Young's NASA career up to that point - culminating with a moon landing - had been impressive.

That mission in 1981 was the first time NASA sent a vehicle into space with people on board without a prior unmanned launch.

He never went to space again.

In news interviews and testimony to the presidential commission that investigated the accident, he warned that space shuttles would continue to reveal defects.

Young was born in San Francisco and grew up in Orlando. He eventually became a Navy fighter and test pilot. He showed us the space shuttle trainer in Building 9, were astronauts learn how to fly the orbiter.

Former President George H.W. Bush said Young was "more than a good friend; he was a fearless patriot whose courage and commitment to duty helped our nation push back the horizon of discovery at a critical time".

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