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John Young, US astronaut and pioneer, dies aged 87

John Young, US astronaut and pioneer, dies aged 87

"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", NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement.

Legendary astronaut John Young, who died Friday in Houston, is being mourned by his fellow space explorers.

Young was an astronauts astronaut.

"He is the astronaut's astronaut, a hero among heroes who fly in space". In 1962, NASA selected him as part of Astronaut Group 2, the second batch of pilots that included Neil Armstrong, Frank Borman, Pete Conrad, Jim Lovell, James McDivitt, Elliot See, Thomas Strafford, and Ed White. The two spent nearly three days in space, completing 43 orbits of Earth.

On Apollo 10, in May 1969, NASA performed what it called "a full dress rehearsal" for landing men on the moon two months later.

US astronaut Terry Virts said in a tweet: "Rest In Peace John Young". He flew on the first manned flight of the Gemini spacecraft in 1965 (and led a flight in 1966), traveled to the Moon twice (including a moonwalk during Apollo 16) and played a key role in the rescue of Apollo 13 by helping to stretch out its resources. He spent three lunar nights on the surface and drove more than 25km in a lunar rover.

After his return to Earth, the shuttle would become Young's next focus. According to David Hitt and Heather R. Smith in Bold They Rise: The Space Shuttle Early Years, 1972-1986, Young learned that Congress had approved funds for the development of NASA' next big project, the Space Shuttle.

Young's first time in space came in 1965 with the Gemini 3 mission that took him and astronaut Gus Grissom into Earth orbit in the first two-man USA space jaunt.

He acknowledged being haunted by the deaths of the two shuttle crews and of close friend Grissom, killed with two other astronauts in the 1967 fire during a test countdown for what was to have been Apollo 1.

He retired from NASA in 2004. He flew into space twice during NASA's Gemini program in the mid-1960s, twice on the Apollo lunar missions and twice on space shuttles in the 1980s. He later served as Special Assistant to the Director of Johnson Space Center for Engineering, Operations, and Safety.

Young became chief of NASA's Astronaut Office, supervising training of new recruits and helping to develop the shuttle, the first fixed-wing space vehicle designed for reuse.

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