Astronaut John Young

October 7, 2022
Before Edward Snowden and

John Young, the ninth man to walk on the moon, flew on three NASA programs: Gemini, Apollo and the space shuttle.

Credit: NASA

John Young first joined NASA as an astronaut when the agency was flying two-man space capsules. He left when the agency was flying the space shuttle. In between, he flew six space missions – the first person to do so.

In his decades with the agency, Young racked up several milestones. He made it to the moon's neighborhood twice, and walked on it once. He commanded the first space shuttle flight and then came back into space yet again to command another. His flight experience spanned three different programs: Gemini, Apollo and the space shuttle.

In 2004, with an impressive 15, 000 hours of spaceflight training across four decades, Young retired from the agency. His new goal was to work on technologies to help humans live on the moon and Mars.

'Snoopy and Charlie Brown are hugging each other'

Young's first job was in the navy, where he rapidly progressed to flight training. His skills landed him a spot at the U.S. Navy Test Pilot School. After graduation, his duties included testing out the Phantom and Crusader weapons systems, as well as bringing Phantom to the fastest-ever climb to 9, 842 feet (3, 000 meters) and 82, 021 feet (25, 000 m).

John Young, the ninth man to walk on the moon, flew on three NASA programs: Gemini, Apollo and the space shuttle.NASA picked Young as an astronaut in September 1962, just as the one-man Mercury spacecraft program was winding down and the Gemini program was starting up. In fact, Young flew on the first manned Gemini flight – Gemini 3 – in 1965, transferring his test pilot skills to figuring out the new spacecraft.

Young then joined Michael Collins to do two rendezvous with two separate target Agena spacecraft in 1966, during Gemini 10. Working in close vicinity with other spacecraft was a requirement for moon missions, when two spacecraft would need to dock together to get to the moon and return home.

This experience came in handy for Apollo 10 in 1969, which featured the first moon-orbiting docking between two spacecraft. At the controls of the command module Charlie Brown, Young successfully joined with the lunar module, Snoopy, that had been doing a landing test a few miles above the surface.

"Snoopy and Charlie Brown are hugging each other!" said an exuberant Tom Stafford, who was commanding Apollo 10.

Driving on the moon

John Young came back to the moon again in 1972, during Apollo 16. He commanded a scientifically ambitious journey to the Descartes highlands, searching for volcanic rock and some possible clues to the moon's history. He and his crewmates, Charles Duke and Ken Mattingly, brought back 200 pounds of rock during more than 20 hours on the surface.

Young and his lunar-roving companion, Charles Duke, only found sedimentary rocks along the way, which surprised scientists back home. Despite the challenges, however, the men kept their sense of humor. They did a controlled but wild-looking test with the lunar rover, for example, skidding it across the surface in front of a video camera.

"One-sixth gravity on the surface of the moon is just delightful, " Young said in a 2006 interview with NASA. "It's not like being in zero gravity, you know. You can drop a pencil in zero gravity and look for it for three days. In one-sixth gravity, you just look down and there it is."

John Young, astronaut and Navy veteran, salutes the U.S. flag at the Descartes landing site during the first Apollo 16 extravehicular activity (EVA-1). Young, commander of the Apollo 16 lunar landing mission, jumps up from the lunar surface as astronaut and Air Force veteran, Charles M. Duke Jr., lunar module pilot, took this picture.

Credit: NASA, Charles M. Duke Jr.

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DiFilm - Interview astronaut John Glenn 1966
DiFilm - Interview astronaut John Glenn 1966
John Young jump
John Young jump
Young Astronaut Program
Young Astronaut Program
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