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John Young is probably the most accomplished astronaut you have never heard of – well unless you’re a space nerd.

Young began his career in the US Navy and like many early Astronauts was a Test Pilot. His career in space began on the Gemini programme, flying on Gemini 3 with Virgil “Gus” Grissom, the first manned Gemini mission. Grissom would ultimately die tragically in the Apollo 1 fire, a reminder of the dangers all astronauts faced and indeed continue to face. He subsequently commanded Gemini X, before like Grissom graduating to the Apollo programme. He flew on Apollo 10, the dress rehearsal for Apollo 11. With crew mates Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan they blasted off on the 18th of May 1969 returning 8 days later. While Stafford and Cernan flew the Lunar Landing Module nicknamed Snoopy to within 8 miles of the Moon’s surface testing hardware, procedures and technology for the subsequent landing in July 1969, Young remained alone in the CSM in Lunar orbit, the most isolated human being alive. As an aside Cernan currently holds the title of Last Man on the Moon, something that he may lose soon with the Artemis Mission scheduled to return to the Lunar surface at some stage over the next two years.

Young subsequently commanded Apollo 16, the second last moon landing mission, spending an hour shy of three days on the Moon’s surface. While there he got to drive the Lunar Rover. In the Apollo program the Mission Commander drove and the LLM Pilot was the passenger. Young drove over 26 KM on the moon during 3 EVA’s. How cool must it have been to be able to say you are one of three people ever who drove a car on the Moon’s surface. At the time of writing the 91 year old David Scott, the commander of Apollo 15, is the only man alive who can say he drove a car on the Moon.

After the cancellation of the Apollo Programme Young became Chief of the Astronaut Office in a974 and was a driving force behind the Space Shuttle Programme. He did an Ed Baldwin(Apple+ For All Mankind if you don’t get the reference) and selected himself to command the inaugural flight STS-1 in 1981 flying again on STS-9 in 1983. After the Challenger disaster in 1985 he was publicly critical of NASA safety standards which would up in his being replaced as Chief of the Astronaut Office after testifying to that effect to a congressional committee. He spent the remainder of his career working on improving safety standards and overseeing the redesign of Space Shuttle components.

He is the only astronaut to fly on four different classes of spacecraft, Gemini, Apollo CSM, Lunar LM and the Space Shuttle. To date is the only person living or dead to have travelled to space on 6 separate occasions. He became the 9th man to set foot on the Moon as commander of Apollo 16 and some people allow him a 5th class of spacecraft for driving the Lunar Rover. He is only person ever to have commanded missions on three different types of Spacecraft, Gemini, Apollo and the Space Shuttle – four commands if you give him the Lunar Rover.  He retired from NASA after 42 years in 2004, when he retired among his other interests was campaigning for greater awareness around potential Asteroid impacts and help drive the foundation of systematic near Earth object observation and tracking. Fittingly Asteroid 5362 Johnyoung was named after him.

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