If you are like me, the recent passing of astronaut John Young could easily be overlooked. Never a glory seeker, this commander of the first space shuttle flight was also the first person to rocket away from the Earth six times. Actually, including his takeoff from the moon, his blastoff total was seven.
Young’s NASA career lasted 42 years — the longest of any astronaut. Probably his most notable quote was in a 2000 Associated Press article: “You don’t want to be politically correct,” he said. “You want to be right!”
Young was the first of his astronaut group to fly in space. He and Mercury astronaut Gus Grissom made the first manned mission in 1965. He smuggled a corned beef sandwich on board, creating a scandal with NASA brass and Congress, causing the delicacy to be outlawed in space forever.
Young orbited the moon on Apollo 10 in May 1969, setting the stage for the Apollo 11 moon landing. He also commanded Apollo 16 and walked on the moon. Among the special awards he was given was a prestigious Space Medal of Honor in 1981.
This special hero had a 42-year career that remains virtually unparalleled.