Legendary astronaut John Young, who died Friday in Houston, is being mourned by his fellow space explorers. Young went to space six times, walked on the moon and was the only astronaut to take part in all of the Gemini, Apollo and shuttle programs. A memo he had sent three weeks earlier, leaked to the media after the tragedy, criticised Nasa for compromising protection to meet launch schedules.
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 USA space jaunt.
"And at that time", he said with a straight face, "I was the chief". Young said later that launching the space shuttle always scared him more than it thrilled him because so much could go wrong.
In 1969, Young was the commander of the Apollo 10 flight to the Moon, a preparation flight for the eventual Apollo 11 Moon landing several months later.
In 1972, as the commander of Apollo 16, Mr.
The former US Navy test pilot was the ninth person to set foot on the moon, an experience shared by three others after Young.
John Young, 'most experienced' USA astronaut, dies at 87
At one point, the moon buggy's fender fell off, forcing Mr.
After his return to Earth, the shuttle would become Young's next focus. He continues to advocate the development of the technologies that will allow us to live and work on the Moon and Mars.
From there, Young joined the Apollo program, where he was assigned to the Apollo 7 backup crew as the Command Module Pilot, along with astronauts Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan.
"If anybody deserves the title of legend it would be John Young", said Andrew Chaikin, an author who has written extensively on NASA. A few weeks later in 1967 those wires contributed to the fire that killed Mr Grissom, Edward White II and Roger Chaffee in a countdown practice on their Cape Canaveral launch pad. From May 1987 to February 1996, Young served as Special Assistant to the Director of JSC for Engineering, Operations, and Safety.
Two years later, with Gemini over and Apollo looming, Mr Young asked Mr Grissom why he did not say something about the bad wiring in the new Apollo 1 spacecraft.
In his autobiography, he revealed that he felt responsible for the shuttle accidents of the Challenger (1986) and Columbia (2003). Young contended that the astronauts were never made aware of such a potentially catastrophic technical problem. "If we do not consider Flight Safety first all the time at all levels of Nasa, this machinery and this programme will NOT make it", he warned colleagues.
"There is only one driving reason that such a potentially risky system would ever be allowed to fly - launch-schedule pressure", he wrote.
Young joined Nasa in 1962. The Spacelab was brought back for re-use, so that Columbia weighed over 110 tons as Young landed the spaceship at Edwards Air Force Base, California.