'Fearless' astronaut John Young dies at 87

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.

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.

Young is the only US astronaut to go into space as part of the Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle programs, and the first to fly into space six times, said NASA. 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. The two spent nearly three days in space, completing 43 orbits of Earth. 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.

Young returned to space on July 18th 1966 as the Command Pilot for Gemini 10, along with future Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins.

Former shuttle commander Scott Kelly also said Young was "the astronauts' astronaut" and a "true legend". Three years later he was selected as a NASA astronaut. When one of the flight instructors objected to us going in with a camera, Young stopped, looked at the instructor and said: "I flew this, I wrote the manual, and that's that".

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Once the USA 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.

In 1981, Young commanded the shuttle program's inaugural mission, orbiting Earth 37 times in the Columbia. Young had been due to command a 1986 flight that was canceled after the explosion of the shuttle Challenger earlier that year.

Young retired from NASA in 2004 after 42 years of being employed by NASA.

He retired from NASA in 2004. It was the first time NASA had ever launched a manned mission without first testing unmanned versions of the same vehicle.

In a statement, acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said that Young was one of the "early space pioneers whose bravery and commitment sparked our nation's first great achievements in space", who spent his entire life in the service to his country, and that he was "in every way the 'astronaut's astronaut'".

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