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John Young

Young, John Watts

Test Pilot/Astronaut
Enshrined 1988 1930-2018

On his Gemini 3 mission with Gus Grissom, John displayed his irrepressible sense of humor, when he smuggled Grissom’s favorite sandwich on board the flight as a “secret experiment.” Wally Schirra had ordered a corned beef sandwich from Wolfie’s Delicatessen in Cocoa Beach, and secretly handed it off to Young. During the mission, John presented the sandwich to a pleased crewmate. NASA, however, was furious at the astronaut “contraband” and ordered Chief Astronaut Donald “Deke” Slayton to control his troops.

As naval test pilot, set a world time-to-climb record in the F4 Phantom.

Made 6 space flights in four types of manned vehicles: pilot of Gemini 3, commander of Gemini 10, command module pilot for Apollo 10, commander of Apollo 16, STS-1(first flight in the space shuttle mission), commanded STS-9 shuttle mission.

First person to fly in space six times.


1988 National Aviation Enshrinee John Watts Young was born on September 24th, 1930, in San Francisco, California. He graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1952, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering.

Following graduation from Georgia Tech, Young entered the United States Navy. After serving a year on the USS Laws, he received orders to Flight Training School and spent four years with Fighter Squadron 103 flying Cougars and Crusaders.

Young completed training at the U.S. Navy Test Pilot School in 1959 and his next assignment was to the Naval Air Test Center for three years. His test projects included evaluations of the Crusader and Phantom fighter weapons systems. In 1962, Young set world time-to-climb records at 3,000 and 25,000 meter altitudes in the Phantom.

NASA announced on April 13th, 1964, that Gus Grissom was number one in the Gemini two-man space crew selection process and would be teamed with John Young. Grissom and Young spent four hours and 53 minutes orbiting the earth on March 23rd, 1965, during the Gemini III mission. The objectives of the mission were to demonstrate precise orbital maneuvering and evaluate the capabilities of the astronauts to carry out manual control of the spacecraft in orbital flight. These criteria included their ability to withstand the conditions of extended time in space. Young served as the command pilot of Gemini 10 in July 1966. Less than six hours after the launching of the spacecraft, it rendezvoused and docked with an Agena target vehicle. The linked spacecraft orbited the earth for almost 39 hours.

Young flew on his first Apollo mission on May 18th, 1969. The purpose of the Apollo 10 mission was to rehearse the procedures for landing the lunar-excursion module on the moon and to ensure its safe return to Earth. On May 22nd, astronauts Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan maneuvered the lunar-excursion module into a lunar orbit which brought it within 9.4 miles of the moon’s surface; the closest man had ever been to the moon. During the Apollo 10 mission, which covered nearly 500,000 miles, Americans had their first opportunity to view live color television pictures transmitted from space.

On his fourth space flight in 1972, Young commanded Apollo 16, a lunar exploration mission. His flight mates, Kenneth Mattingly and Charles Duke, collected almost 200 pounds of rock samples and drove over 27 kilometers on the surface of the moon in the lunar rover.

Captain Young retired from the Navy in September 1976 after completing nearly 25 years of active military service. Young was the spacecraft commander of the first flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1981. During the 54.5 hour, 36 orbit mission, Young and pilot Robert Crippen verified shuttle systems performance during launch, on orbit and entry. Columbia was the first manned spaceship to be flown into orbit without previous unmanned orbital testing. Columbia was also the first winged reentry vehicle to return from space to a runway landing. Young braked the nearly 100-ton craft to a stop on the dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Young’s last flight occurred in late 1983 when he commanded STS-9, the first Spacelab mission. With pilot Brewster Shaw at the controls, the mission successfully completed all 94 of its flight test objectives. For ten days the six-man crew worked 12-hour shifts around-the-clock, performing more than 70 scientific experiments. The mission returned more scientific and technical data than all of the previous Apollo and Spacelab missions combined.

During his 26-year association with NASA, Young has been on four backup crews: backup pilot in Gemini 6, backup command pilot of Apollo 7, and backup spacecraft commander for Apollo 13 and 17. In preparation for prime and backup crew positions on ten spaceflights, Young has logged more than 11,300 training hours. In his entire flying career, Young has logged more than 11,000 hours flying time including 835 hours in space.

Young’s sixth flight was as Spacecraft Commander of STS-9, the first Spacelab mission, November 28th-December 8th, 1983, with Pilot Brewster Shaw, Mission Specialists Bob Parker and Owen Garriott, and Payload Specialists Byron Lichtenberg of the USA and Ulf Merbold of West Germany. The mission successfully completed all 94 of its flight test objectives. For ten days the six-man crew worked 12-hour shifts around-the-clock, performing more than 70 experiments in the fields of atmospheric physics, Earth observations, space plasma physics, astronomy and solar physics, materials processing and life sciences. The mission returned more scientific and technical data than all the previous Apollo and Skylab missions put together. The Spacelab came back for re-use, so that Columbia weighed over 110 tons as Young landed the spaceship at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Young also served on five backup space flight crews: backup pilot in Gemini 6, backup command pilot for the second Apollo mission (before the Apollo Program fire) and Apollo 7, and backup spacecraft commander for Apollo 13 and 17. In preparation for prime and backup crew positions on ten space flights, Young has put more than 15,000 hours into training so far, mostly in simulators and simulations.

In January 1973, Young became Chief of the Space Shuttle Branch of the Astronaut Office, providing operational and engineering astronaut support for the design and development of the Space Shuttle. In January 1974, he was selected to be Chief of the Astronaut Office, with responsibility for the coordination, scheduling, and control of activities of the astronauts. Young served as Chief of the Astronaut Office until May 1987. 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. From May 1987 to February 1996, Young served as Special Assistant to the Director of JSC for Engineering, Operations, and Safety. In that position, he had direct access to the Center Director and other senior managers in defining and resolving issues affecting the continued safe operation of the Space Shuttle. Additionally, he assisted the Center Director in providing advice and counsel on engineering, operational, and safety matters related to the Space Station, Shuttle upgrades, and advanced human Space Exploration Programs.

In February 1996 he was assigned as Associate Director (Technical) and on December 31, 2004, Young retired from NASA.