Astronaut John Young, who walked on moon, dies at 87

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Legendary astronaut John Young died on Friday from complications with pneumonia, NASA announced on Saturday.

Born in San Francisco in 1930, Young gained a degree in aeronautical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and then served in the US Navy as a test pilot. From there, he joined the US Navy, served aboard the USS LAWS during the Korean War, and went on to attend the Navy Test Pilot School. "He was in every way the 'astronaut's astronaut.' We will miss him".

Once the US had beaten the Soviet Union's cosmonauts to the moon and funding dried up, Young pushed NASA to return to the moon or venture to Mars, to provide the human race with a backup home in the event of Earth's destruction. He was on the first Gemini mission and he commanded the first shuttle flight.

In May 1969 Young was part of the Apollo 10 mission that flew to the moon as a rehearsal for the Apollo 11 landing two months later. The two spent nearly three days in space, completing 43 orbits of Earth.

"Saddened for the loss of former astronaut colleague John Young - the astronauts' astronaut, a true legend", Scott Kelly tweeted. He orbited the Moon in Apollo 10, and landed there as Commander of the Apollo 16 mission.

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Young was one of the three astronauts to travel twice to the moon. Along with Charlies Duke Jr., he landed in the Descartes Highlands on April 21st, where they spent three days on the lunar surface.

"I wrote my memos to hit people over the head: with facts, with what-ifs, with contingencies, with options to contingencies, and with the stupidity and danger of absurd and ludicrous bureaucratic decisions", Young wrote about the 2003 loss of the shuttle Columbia and seven more lives. Nasa later rebuked him for the stunt.

In April 1981, he commanded Space Shuttle Columbia on its - and the Shuttle program's - first flight, STS-1. Young and his crew undertook each aspect of that subsequent mission except for an actual moon landing. It was the first time a piloted spacecraft was tested in space without previous orbital flights with nobody on board. According to media reports, Young smuggled a corned beef sandwich in his spacesuit, a move that didn't sit well with NASA staff in Houston who anxious about the crumbs.

Retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield echoed that on Twitter, saying "John Young is one of my heroes, an astronaut's astronaut, a fearless individual and a good friend".

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