America lost a true hero last week when former Naval Aviator and Astronaut John Young died Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, at the age of 87. Young was commander of Apollo 16 and walked on the moon as well as flying the very first Space Shuttle mission.

“Today, NASA and the world have lost a pioneer,” acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement. “Astronaut John Young’s storied career spanned three generations of spaceflight; we will stand on his shoulders as we look toward the next human frontier.

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“John was one of that group of early space pioneers whose bravery and commitment sparked our nation’s first great achievements in space. 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.”

“It would be hard to overstate the impact that John Young had on human space flight,” said Johnson Space Center Director Ellen Ochoa, a former astronaut herself.  “Beyond his well-known and groundbreaking six missions through three programs, he worked tirelessly for decades to understand and mitigate the risks that NASA astronauts face. He had our backs.”

After hearing President Kennedy’s bold proposal in 1961 to land a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth, Young said knew what he had to do.

“I thought returning safely to Earth sounded like a good idea,” said Young, who stood on the Moon, drove 16 miles in a lunar rover and spent three nights on the lunar surface. He is the only person to go into space as part of the Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle programs and was the first to fly into space six times — or seven times, when counting his liftoff from the Moon during Apollo 16 – NASA

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Featured image of John Young on the Moon, with the Lunar Module and Lunar Rover in the background by NASA

Gemini X astronauts John Young, left, and Mike Collins stand on the deck of USS Guadalcanal following splashdown and recovery on July 21, 1966.
Gemini X astronauts John Young, left, and Mike Collins stand on the deck of USS Guadalcanal following splashdown and recovery on July 21, 1966. Photo by NASA.