Press Release

NASA Names Astronaut John Young Ambassador of Exploration

By SpaceRef Editor
July 21, 2005
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NASA Names Astronaut John Young Ambassador of Exploration

Space pioneer John Young has been named a NASA Ambassador of Exploration. Young received the award and commemorative moon rock Wednesday at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, where the items remain on display.

The Ambassador of Exploration Award recognizes the sacrifices and dedication of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronauts. The awards remain property of NASA, but are displayed at a museum or educational institution of the recipient’s choice. The goal of the awards is to inspire a new generation of explorers.

In a letter to the astronaut, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin stated Young’s superb service had earned him a national reputation as a true Ambassador of Exploration. “I know of no one who is more deserving of this prestigious award. You have truly earned it through your extraordinary and visionary contributions to our nation and to NASA,” Griffin said. (Click here to viewa copy of the letter.)

Young was the first human to fly in space six times and launch seven times. He launched six times from Earth and once from the moon. He is the only astronaut to pilot four different types of spacecraft, flying in the Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle programs. Young is the longest serving astronaut in history. He retired from NASA in December 2004.

Young, a native of Orlando, Fla., is a retired U.S. Navy Captain and test pilot. He joined NASA in 1962, and his initial mission was as pilot of the first manned flight of the Gemini Program in 1965. With Young and Commander Virgil Grissom on board, Gemini 3 was the first American space flight with more than one person.

He next flew in 1966, commanding Gemini 10. Along with Mike Collins, he performed the first dual rendezvous maneuvers during a single mission.

In 1969, two months before the first human lunar landing, Young orbited the moon in the Apollo Command Module. His fellow crewmembers, Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan, descended to within 50,000 feet of the moon’s surface in the Lunar Module. Apollo 10 was a rehearsal for the first lunar landing.

Young returned to the moon in 1972 as commander of Apollo 16. He piloted the Lunar Module to a landing on the surface, along with Charlie Duke. Young and Duke drove more than 16 miles across the moon in the Lunar Rover vehicle, collecting more than 200 pounds of samples. It was the most extensive lunar exploration mission to date.

Young was at the helm of Columbia for the first Space Shuttle mission, STS-1 in 1981, with Robert Crippen as pilot. It was the world’s first flight of a reusable, winged spacecraft; the first landing of a spacecraft on a runway; and the largest, heaviest craft to launch and land until that time. It was the first time a manned spacecraft was launched without previous unmanned test flights. Young guided the 96-ton Columbia to a perfect touchdown at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., after a two-day mission.

Young’s sixth and final space mission was again in command of Columbia on the ninth Shuttle flight, STS-9 in 1983. It was the first launch of the Spacelab laboratory in the Shuttle’s cargo bay. It was the longest Shuttle flight until that time, with the first international crew working around the clock for 10 days to conduct more than 70 experiments.

When he was not in flight, Young’s extensive contributions continued. He served as chief of NASA’s Astronaut Office for 13 years. He also served eight years as an assistant and associate director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, providing advice and counsel on technical, operational and safety matters.

For biographical and other information about John Young on the Web, visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.