Astronaut John Young, who walked on the Moon during Apollo 16 and commanded the first Space Shuttle mission, has died at the age of 87. Young passed away on 5 January 2018, reportedly due to complications from pneumonia.


Young joined NASA in 1962 and made his first flight in 1965 on the Gemini 3 mission with Gus Grissom. It was the first manned flight of the Gemini programme.

He then commanded the Gemini 10 mission in July 1966, during which he and astronaut Mike Collins rendezvoused with two unmanned spacecraft.

Young was part of the Apollo 10 mission in 1969, which saw him and crewmates Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan fly to the Moon in search of landing sites for the Apollo 11 mission.

He then commanded Apollo 16 in April 1972, landing on the Moon and exploring the lunar highlands in a rover with lunar module pilot Charlie Duke.

That mission brought back over 200 pounds of Moon rocks, which were gathered during three different expeditions on the lunar surface.

In April 1981, John Young commanded the Space Shuttle Columbia on the Shuttle programme’s maiden flight, STS-1.

Then in 1983 he commanded STS-9, the first Spacelab mission.

“It would be hard to overstate the impact that John Young had on human space flight,” says NASA Johnson Space Center Director Ellen Ochoa.

ohn Young's official astronaut portrait.Credits: NASA
John Young's official astronaut portrait. Credits: NASA

“Beyond his well-known and groundbreaking six missions through three programmes, he worked tirelessly for decades to understand and mitigate the risks that NASA astronauts face. He had our backs.”

“John was one of that group of early space pioneers whose bravery and commitment sparked our nation's first great achievements in space,” says acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot.

“But, not content with that, his hands-on contributions continued long after the last of his six spaceflights - a world record at the time of his retirement from the cockpit.


“John Young was at the forefront of human space exploration with his poise, talent, and tenacity. He was in every way the 'astronaut’s astronaut.' We will miss him.”


Iain Todd BBC Sky at Night Magazine
Iain ToddScience journalist

Iain Todd is BBC Sky at Night Magazine's Content Editor. He fell in love with the night sky when he caught his first glimpse of Orion, aged 10.