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President HW Bush offers condolences on passing of astronaut John Young

07 January 2018

Young was the first astronaut to command the Space Shuttle. He flew to the moon twice and walked on its surface, according to NASA officials. "Godspeed." When asked about the risk of flying on the space shuttle Columbia for the first time in 1981, Young responded "Anyone who sits on top of the largest hydrogen-oxygen fueled system in the world, knowing they are going to light the bottom, and doesn't get a little anxious, does not fully understand the situation".

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

He flew twice during the two-man Gemini missions of the mid-1960s, twice to the moon during NASA's Apollo program, and twice more aboard the new space shuttle Columbia in the early 1980s. John Young was the only astronaut to have participated in the Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle projects. He spent 42 years at the agency, retiring in 2004.

Details about Young's death were not immediately released.

"To us, he represented the best in the American spirit - always looking forward, always reaching higher", Bush said in a statement.

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. When one of the flight instructors objected to media going in with a camera, Young stopped, looked at the instructor, and said "I flew this, I wrote the manual, and that's that".

President HW Bush offers condolences on passing of astronaut John Young

Robert Crippen, Young's co-pilot on Columbia's successful maiden voyage in 1981, told The Associated Press that flying with Young was "a real treat".

Retired U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly said he was saddened by the loss and called Young in a tweet "the astronauts' astronaut, a true legend".

Young was born on September 24, 1930, in San Francisco and grew up in Orlando, Florida. NASA picked him in 1962 for its astronaut program. He became interested early on in aviation and earned an aeronautical engineering degree from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1952.

He added: "John leaves a tremendous legacy of accomplishment, in addition to his wonderful family".

He joined the Navy, serving on a destroyer before becoming a pilot in 1959.

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President HW Bush offers condolences on passing of astronaut John Young