George HW Bush mourns late astronaut John Young

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Young, who went to space six times, died on Friday night at his home in Houston following complications from pneumonia, National Aeronautics and Space Administration spokesman Allard Beutel said in an email.

Announcing his death on 6 January, NASA administrator Robert Lightfoot said: "NASA and the world have lost a pioneer".

"Barbara and I join our fellow Americans and many friends in the space community in mourning the loss of astronaut John Young".

John W. Young dies at 87 NASA pilot Six times to space Shuttle missions

It said he "was one of that group of early space pioneers whose bravery and commitment sparked our nation's first great achievements in space". "You know that alone would have qualified him for being in the Hall of Fame of astronaut careers", Chaikin said, "But the thing that really made him a true legend was in 1981 when he commanded the very first space shuttle mission".

He commanded the Apollo 16 mission and walked on the moon during that mission.

He retired from NASA in December 2004. On our route to the convention center from Orlando International Airport, we passed John Young Parkway, prompting one of the staffers to ask, "Who is John Young?" Three years later he was selected as a NASA astronaut. He was the first person to fly in space six times from earth, and seven times counting his lunar liftoff in the Gemini, Apollo & Space Shuttle programs.

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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-person U.S. space jaunt. He was co-pilot on the first Gemini mission in 1965 and then commanded a Gemini flight the next year and orbited the moon on Apollo 10. While Young flew close formation on the second Agena, Mike Collins did an extravehicular transfer to retrieve a micro meteorite detector from that Agena. It served as a full dress rehearsal for the Apollo 11 landing two months later. His second trip in 1972, on Apollo 16, let him walk on the satellite's surface. He and another astronaut, Charles Duke, drove a vehicle 16 miles across the lunar surface, collecting more than 200 pounds of soil samples and rocks.

"We were testing stuff out and making sure the payload bay doors worked right and checking to make sure the radiator deployed and stuff like that to make sure we'd operate OK on orbit", Young told CNN in 2011. The Orbiter Columbia was the first manned spaceship tested during ascent, on orbit, and entry without benefit of previous unmanned missions. It weighed about 98 tons as Young landed it on the dry lakebed at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

He commanded the Columbia again in 1983, his final journey into the cosmos. In preparation for prime and backup crew positions on eleven space flights, Young has put more than 15,000 hours into training so far, mostly in simulators and simulations.

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As a Navy pilot, he logged more than 15,275 hours in props, jets, helicopters and rocket jets. Young became a forthright voice for astronaut safety. During his tenure, astronaut flight crews participated in the Apollo-Soyuz joint American-Russian docking mission, the Space Shuttle Orbiter Approach and Landing Test Program, and 25 Space Shuttle missions.

Young was reassigned in 1987 as special assistant for engineering, operations and safety at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, a move he viewed as punishment for his outspokenness.

"John Young was at the forefront of human space exploration with his poise, talent, and tenacity".

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Indeed, Young remained an active astronaut into his early 70s, long after all his peers had left, and held on to his role as NASA's conscience until his retirement in 2004.

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