Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The New York Times > Science > Astronaut's Long Career Ends

"The New York Times
December 8, 2004
Astronaut's Long Career Ends

HOUSTON, Dec. 7 (AP) - The longest serving astronaut in history, John W. Young, announced his retirement on Tuesday.

Mr. Young, who has spent 42 years at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, plans to leave the agency on Dec. 31.

Mr. Young, who commanded the first shuttle mission and flew twice to the Moon, was the first person to fly in space six times and the only astronaut to pilot four different spacecraft. He flew in the Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle programs.

'John's tenacity and dedication are matched only by his humility,' said Sean O'Keefe, the administrator of NASA. 'He's never sought fame and often goes out of his way to avoid the limelight.'

Mr. O'Keefe said Mr. Young's legacy would inspire space explorers for years to come.

Mr. Young, 74, joined NASA in 1962. His first mission was in 1965 as a pilot of the first manned flight of the Gemini program. He went on to command the Gemini 10 in 1966, followed by his orbit of the Moon in the Apollo command module in 1969.

Mr. Young went back to the Moon in 1972 in Apollo 16. He and his fellow astronaut, Charles M. Duke, collected more than 200 pounds of lunar samples.

'John has an incredible engineering mind, and he sets the gold standard when it comes to asking the really tough questions,' said William F. Readdy, NASA's associate administrator for space operations. In 1981, Mr. Young commanded the Columbia during the first space shuttle mission. In his final space mission, in 1983, he again commanded the Columbia.

Mr. Young was chief of the agency's astronaut office for more than a dozen years and was an assistant and associate director of the Johnson Space Center for eight years.

'John Young has no equal in his service to our country and to humanity's quest for space,' said Jefferson D. Howell Jr., director of the Johnson Space Center.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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