Apollo astronaut John Young dies at 87

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John Young, one of only 12 people to have walked on the Moon, has died aged 87, NASA has announced.

We mourn the passing of astronaut John Young, who began his career with us in 1962, when he was selected from hundreds of young pilots for our second astronaut class.

He was 87 and died late Friday of complications from pneumonia, the space agency said.

According to NASA, Young went to space six times as part of the Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle programs.

Young became one of the most accomplished astronauts in the history of the US space program.

He retired from NASA in December 2004.

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In an interview with the Houston Chronicle in 2004, Young recalled: "One-sixth gravity on the surface of the moon is just delightful". It was the first time NASA had ever launched a manned mission without first testing unmanned versions of the same vehicle.

It was while orbiting the Earth that he handed the smuggled sandwich to his colleague, Gus Grissom. Young flew twice to the Moon, walked on its surface & flew the first Space Shuttle mission. You can drop a pencil in zero gravity and look for it for three days. "You were one of my heroes as an astronaut and explorer and your passion for space will be missed". Young and his crew undertook each aspect of that subsequent mission except for an actual moon landing.

Young, left, with Robert Crippen, flew Columbia on STS-1, the Shuttle program's maiden flight in 1981.

He flew into space six times during his 42 year career at NASA, including two trips to the moon. Young had been due to command a 1986 flight that was canceled after the explosion of the shuttle Challenger earlier that year. It was the first time a piloted spacecraft was tested in space without previous orbital flights with nobody on board.

Young was born on September 24, 1930, in San Francisco and grew up in Orlando, Florida. He was graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1952 with a degree in aeronautical engineering.