Legendary astronaut John Young, the ninth man to walk on the moon and who later commanded the first space shuttle flight, has died aged 87.
NASA said Young died at home in Houston following complications from pneumonia.
Young began his career with NASA in 1962 and received more than 100 major accolades in his lifetime, including the prestigious Congressional Space Medal of Honour in 1981.
NASA called Young one of its pioneers — the only agency astronaut to go into space as part of the Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle programs, and the first to fly into space six times.
“Astronaut John Young’s storied career spanned three generations of spaceflight,” acting NASA administrator Robert Lightfoot said.
“John was one of that group of early space pioneers whose bravery and commitment sparked our nation’s first great achievements in space.”
Counting his take-off from the moon in 1972 as commander of Apollo 16, his blast-off tally stood at seven, for decades a world record.
Young was in NASA’s second astronaut class, chosen in 1962, along with the likes of Neil Armstrong, Pete Conrad and James Lovell.
His NASA career lasted 42 years, longer than any other astronaut’s.
He remained an active astronaut into his early 70s and he was revered among his peers for his dogged dedication to keeping crews safe — and his outspokenness in challenging the space agency’s status quo.
“You don’t want to be politically correct,” he said in a 2000 interview with The Associated Press.
“You want to be right.”
‘Anybody who ever flew in space admired John’
Young orbited the moon on Apollo 10 in May 1969 in preparation for the Apollo 11 moon landing that was to follow in a couple of months.
He commanded Apollo 16 three years later, the next-to-last manned lunar voyage, and walked on the moon.
Robert Crippen, who launched space shuttle Columbia with Young in 1981, called flying with Young “a real treat”.
“Anybody who ever flew in space admired John,” said Crippen, a close friend who last spoke to him a few months ago.
Young was born September 24, 1930 and grew up in Orlando, Florida.
He became interested early on in aviation, making model planes. He spent his last high school summer working on a surveying team.
The job took him to Titusville due east of Orlando. He never imagined that one day he would be sitting on rockets across the Indian River, blasting off for the moon.
He earned an aeronautical engineering degree from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1952 and went on to join the Navy and serve in Korea as a gunnery officer.
He eventually became a Navy fighter pilot and test pilot.
Even after leaving NASA in 2004, he worked to keep the space flame alive, noting in his official NASA biography that he was continuing to advocate the development of technologies “that will allow us to live and work on the moon and Mars”.
“Those technologies over the long (or short) haul will save civilisation on Earth,” he warned in his NASA bio, almost as a parting shot.
NASA said it would be “hard to overstate the impact” Young had on human space travel.
“We will stand on his shoulders as we look toward the next human frontier,” Mr Lightfoot said.