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General Discussion => Live Event Section - Latest Space Flight News => Topic started by: IanThePineapple on 01/06/2018 04:03 PM

Title: John Young has passed away
Post by: IanThePineapple on 01/06/2018 04:03 PM
Link here: https://twitter.com/AstroTerry/status/949680290557054976

"Rest In Peace John Young. You were one of my heroes as an astronaut and explorer and your passion for space will be missed."
Title: Re: John Young passes away
Post by: IanThePineapple on 01/06/2018 04:04 PM
InsideKSC responds to it: "Astronaut Terry Virts (@AstroTerry) is reporting this morning that Gemini, Apollo, and Space Shuttle astronaut John Young has died."

https://twitter.com/InsideKSC/status/949687781630054400
Title: Re: John Young passes away
Post by: Svetoslav on 01/06/2018 04:14 PM
It's a sad day. With the passing of John Young now there are more people dead than alive of those who have walked on the Moon (7 versus 5).

Will some of the remaining be alive when people once again leave Low Earth Orbit? :(
Title: Re: John Young passes away
Post by: rob2507 on 01/06/2018 04:16 PM
Scott Kelly as well

"Saddened for the loss of former astronaut colleague John Young - the astronauts’ astronaut, a true legend. Fair winds and following seas, Captain. #RIP"

https://twitter.com/StationCDRKelly/status/949690130842845184
Title: Re: John Young passes away
Post by: Orbiter on 01/06/2018 04:24 PM
Commander of the greatest test flight of all time (STS-1)... RIP John Young

EDIT: NASA tweet: https://twitter.com/nasa/status/949691932804083712
Title: Re: John Young passes away
Post by: JWag on 01/06/2018 04:27 PM
It was mentioned in a thread here that he had been ill for some time:

Jerry Bostick, Apollo controller informed me a few days back that John Young was seriouslynill and had been for a while.

Anyone have further in formation

If you are reading this John, a speedy recovery !

Phill



Apollo and Gemini were before my time (heck, STS-1 happened when I was 8!), but I'd always held him in high regard. Especially as I got older and learned what a gutsy (some might say reckless) flight STS-1 was.

Title: Re: John Young passes away
Post by: Rocket Science on 01/06/2018 04:28 PM
Farewell John, I will miss your sense of humor and loved your exhilaration after you landed Columbia... Thank you for your service and may you rest in peace...
https://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/young.html

STS-1
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nz8xnEmsgAE
Title: Re: John Young passes away
Post by: IanThePineapple on 01/06/2018 04:28 PM
Another moonwalker...   :'(

And we haven't returned in 45 years  >:(
Title: Re: John Young passes away
Post by: Galactic Penguin SST on 01/06/2018 04:32 PM
https://twitter.com/NASA/status/949691932804083712 (https://twitter.com/NASA/status/949691932804083712)

NASA

@NASA

We're saddened by the loss of astronaut John Young, who was 87. Young flew twice to the Moon, walked on its surface & flew the first Space Shuttle mission. He went to space six times in the Gemini, Apollo & Space Shuttle programs.

------------------------------------------

Fair Winds Captain.
Title: Re: John Young passes away
Post by: Chris Bergin on 01/06/2018 04:48 PM
Terrible news. Such a legend. RIP sir.
Title: Re: John Young passes away
Post by: Poole Amateur on 01/06/2018 04:53 PM
One of my heroes, RIP John Young
Title: Re: John Young passes away
Post by: Perchlorate on 01/06/2018 04:57 PM
Sad news, indeed.  But let's celebrate his as a well-lived, incredibly full life.  I can't think of anyone else who faced a greater sum of danger in space, and he did it with skill, perseverance and a side order of good humor.

Godspeed, indeed, Captain Young!  Fair winds, following seas and unrestricted sandwiches.
Title: Re: John Young passes away
Post by: racevedo88 on 01/06/2018 04:58 PM
Fair winds and following seas Cpt Young. a childhood hero will be remebered
Title: Re: John Young passes away
Post by: A12 on 01/06/2018 05:39 PM
Great spacecraft's  pilot, he flew four different  vehicles  , Gemini, Apollo, LEM and Shuttle STS-1, the first spacecraft tested likewise an aircraft without an unmanned test flight before!
Title: Re: John Young passes away
Post by: ZachS09 on 01/06/2018 05:41 PM
RIP John Young.

So sad to see you go; you were one of many spaceflight pioneers.
Title: Re: John Young passes away
Post by: jacqmans on 01/06/2018 05:51 PM
January 06, 2018 
RELEASE 18-001

NASA Remembers Agency’s Most Experienced Astronaut 

The following is a statement from acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot on the passing of John Young, who died Friday night following complications from pneumonia at the age of 87. Young is 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:

“Today, NASA and the world have lost a pioneer. Astronaut John Young's storied career spanned three generations of spaceflight; we will stand on his shoulders as we look toward the next human frontier.

“John was one of that group of early space pioneers whose bravery and commitment sparked our nation's first great achievements in space. But, not content with that, his hands-on contributions continued long after the last of his six spaceflights -- a world record at the time of his retirement from the cockpit.

“Between his service in the U.S. Navy, where he retired at the rank of captain, and his later work as a civilian at NASA, John spent his entire life in service to our country.  His career included the test pilot’s dream of two ‘first flights’ in a new spacecraft -- with Gus Grissom on Gemini 3, and as Commander of STS-1, the first space shuttle mission, which some have called ‘the boldest test flight in history.’ He flew as Commander on Gemini 10, the first mission to rendezvous with two separate spacecraft the course of a single flight. He orbited the Moon in Apollo 10, and landed there as Commander of the Apollo 16 mission. On STS-9, his final spaceflight, and in an iconic display of test pilot ‘cool,’ he landed the space shuttle with a fire in the back end. 

“I participated in many Space Shuttle Flight Readiness Reviews with John, and will always remember him as the classic ‘hell of an engineer’ from Georgia Tech, who had an uncanny ability to cut to the heart of a technical issue by posing the perfect question -- followed by his iconic phrase, ‘Just asking...’ 

“John Young was at the forefront of human space exploration with his poise, talent, and tenacity.  He was in every way the 'astronaut’s astronaut.' We will miss him.”

For more information about Young’s NASA career, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/astronautprofiles/young  

Title: Re: John Young passes away
Post by: Stardust9906 on 01/06/2018 05:53 PM
Genuinely shocked and upset to hear about this the man was an absolute legend and my all time favourite NASA astronaut.

RIP John  :'(
Title: Re: John Young passes away
Post by: eric z on 01/06/2018 05:53 PM
 My condolences to all who loved him, flew with him and were influenced by him in their lives. My wife and I were just reminiscing about the infamous "Corned-Beef Affair" on Gemini-3...Let's not forget his other great flights like Gemini-10 and Apollo-10 [first human to be alone in lunar orbit], and STS-9.
 In the book "Footprints", interviews with the 12 moonwalkers, Young makes a very compelling case for why the Moon is and will be so important to humanity- check it out! 
Title: Re: John Young passes away
Post by: Artyom. on 01/06/2018 06:07 PM
RIP John Young...

 :(  :'(
Title: Re: John Young passes away
Post by: Apollo-phill on 01/06/2018 06:10 PM
Really saddened to read that John has died.

Spent some time with him some years ago on the lecture circuit .

And, of course, followed all his missions from early 60 s onwards.

I have an original  STS-1 crew typed report - fascinating reading 😊

I was an engineer before retiring and John was an "Engineers engineer " - knowing his subjects inside out . I could have spoken/listened/discoursed with him for months on end 😃

He was really, really keen to get human space exploration into " top gear".

Let's all take his truly pioneering spirit and keep pushing the envelope to take humanity to the stars !

Condolences to his family, especially his wife who has similar " faith" in herbal and homeopathy remedies like myself  - which we discussed at length one day 😉

Phill Parker
UK
Title: Re: John Young passes away
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 01/06/2018 06:13 PM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qBb_iKZbGM (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qBb_iKZbGM)
Title: Re: John Young passes away
Post by: IanThePineapple on 01/06/2018 06:16 PM
Wow, I just learned from the NASA release that he landed STS-9 while 2/3 APUs were on fire from a hydrazine leak...

He's the kind of pilot I would want flying a plane (or Shuttle!) that I'm in.
Title: Re: John Young passes away
Post by: Star One on 01/06/2018 06:27 PM
RIP John Young

Legend gets banded around too easily to describe someone. In this case he was entirely deserving of that title.

God Speed in your next journey sir.
Title: Re: John Young passes away
Post by: Lee Jay on 01/06/2018 06:31 PM
Not sure what else there is to be said.  You've all said it well.
Title: Re: John Young passes away
Post by: Coastal Ron on 01/06/2018 06:44 PM
When we say that we stand on the shoulders of giants, John Young is certainly one of them.

Amongst his many accomplishments he showed how it was possible to have a long career being an astronaut, and I think we all hope that he will inspire many in the future to try and beat his record.
Title: Re: John Young passes away
Post by: Space Ghost 1962 on 01/06/2018 06:48 PM
I often think of if America would have been a different nation from flying out Apollo/Saturn with a Venus flyby mission led by him.
Title: Re: John Young passes away
Post by: IanThePineapple on 01/06/2018 06:51 PM
I often think of if America would have been a different nation from flying out Apollo/Saturn with a Venus flyby mission led by him.

Cancelling the AAP was a huge loss, I think we could have landed on Mars in the mid 80s if Congress kept investing in Apollo and AAP
Title: Re: John Young passes away
Post by: cebri on 01/06/2018 07:02 PM
Very sad day. My favourite astronaut.

RIP John Young. Your career has and will inspire many.

 :(
Title: Re: John Young passes away
Post by: jgoldader on 01/06/2018 07:13 PM
He always struck me as "the very best of the very best."  If I had a "hero" astronaut, it was John Young.

[added] In addition to his flights, we should remember that he played a significant role in highlighting safety issues after 51-L.
Title: Re: John Young passes away
Post by: the_other_Doug on 01/06/2018 07:17 PM
Godspeed, John Watts Young.

Godspeed.
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 01/06/2018 07:43 PM
While sad at the news, John Young’s life is truly one to celebrate.

We’ll not see his like again. RIP.
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: Archibald on 01/06/2018 07:51 PM
Dang.  :-\ 

... only days after Bruce McCandless... another legend has died...

What an amazing career he had. Every single of his flight was kind of landmark in the history of manned spaceflight. He missed only Mercury, and he died only months before the next manned vehicle after the shuttle lift-off.

STS-9 was one hell of a close call. STS-1 has some of them, too.

He flew Apollo 10 and Apollo 16, making him one of the very, very few that went to the Moon twice (there was Young, there was Cernan and there was Lovell, perhaps the most unfortunate of the three).

and Gemini of course (he got the first mission, just  like the shuttle)

May he rest in peace.
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: Brovane on 01/06/2018 08:02 PM
God speed John Young.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KezwDfFcFhU (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KezwDfFcFhU)
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: David GREENFIELD on 01/06/2018 08:07 PM
Condolences to Susy and the rest of his relatives. The last few years must have been hard.

Goodbye to a legend.
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: MATTBLAK on 01/06/2018 08:20 PM
Devastating... :(
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: MATTBLAK on 01/06/2018 08:22 PM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1n7yx_6IC8A&t=208s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYXqsBEXtTk&t=25s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuO_DLHrkys&t=745s
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: Rocket Science on 01/06/2018 08:24 PM
NASA TV airing special programming in memory of John...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwMDvPCGeE0
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: wolfpack on 01/06/2018 08:45 PM
That’s eight blast-offs now, Captain. Congratulations, you’ve lead the way.

And, please enjoy the corned beef up there!  ;)
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: Jim Davis on 01/06/2018 09:01 PM
How many Group 2 astronauts are still with us?
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: MATTBLAK on 01/06/2018 09:06 PM
Not many. There's only two intact Apollo crews still with us - 8 & 9 and only 5 of the 12 Moonwalkers :(
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: Endeavour126 on 01/06/2018 09:22 PM
How many Group 2 astronauts are still with us?

Four of them. Borman, Lovell, McDivitt and Stafford.
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: catdlr on 01/06/2018 09:38 PM
My deepest respect for John and his family during this time.  My favorite Shuttle astronaut.

NASA Remembers Astronaut John Young, Moonwalker and First Shuttle Commander


NASA Video
Published on Jan 6, 2018

Astronaut John Young, who walked on the Moon during Apollo 16 and commanded the first space shuttle mission, has passed away at the age of 87.
 
After earning an engineering degree from Georgia Tech and flying planes for the Navy, Young began his impressive career at NASA in 1962, when he was selected from among hundreds of young pilots to join NASA's second astronaut class, known as the "New Nine." Young first flew in space on the first manned Gemini flight, Gemini 3 in March 1965. He later commanded the Gemini 10 mission in July 1966, served as command module pilot on Apollo 10 in 1969, and landed on the Moon as commander of Apollo 16 in April 1972. He went on to command the first Space Shuttle flight in 1981, and also commanded the STS-9 shuttle mission in 1983.
 
He is the only person to go into space as part of the Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle programs and was the first to fly into space six times -- or seven times, when counting his liftoff from the Moon during Apollo 16.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLe6NCi4nSU?t=001

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLe6NCi4nSU
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: Quindar on 01/06/2018 09:58 PM
Captian, My Captian!

RIP Sir~
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: ejb749 on 01/06/2018 10:03 PM
Once again reminded of this:

https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/65_years.png (https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/65_years.png)
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: wholmeswa on 01/06/2018 10:03 PM
Rest in Peace  :'(
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: brad2007a on 01/06/2018 10:47 PM
I had the honor of meeting John Young after he gave a speech at RPI in 1998. A great astronaut and a true hero and patriot.

R.I.P.

😔
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: Oersted on 01/06/2018 10:48 PM
Loved his sarcasm and no-frills, no-BS attitude. Legend.

RIP
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: JAFO on 01/06/2018 11:21 PM
Brilliant mind with an understated sense of humour. Heard him speak at the NASM many years ago, when he talked about the engineers being wrong and Columbia having a glide ratio of 4.53784 instead of the predicted 4.2456 which is why he overshot the STS-1 landing, I knew there was a lot of aerospace engineering I'd never comprehend.
 
 He was asked if he'd ever fly again and in his laconic Georgia drawl he said he would not because it was too dangerous... too dangerous... Not flying the Shuttle, but if he flew again his wife Suzy would kill him. (She was in the front row and stood up, applauding and laughing.)
 
 
 
 
 Godspeed, Sir.
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: MATTBLAK on 01/06/2018 11:58 PM
If not for bad timing and politics, he would have commanded the Hubble deployment mission in 1986 or 1987. In fact, in part because of his outrage following the Challenger accident, he was moved aside from that flight and lost his chance to fly in space again forever :(  No disrespect at all to Colonel Loren Shriver; but it would have really been something to see Captain Young fly in space one more time at age 60 in 1990, when STS-31 finally flew.

Charlie Bolden would have had some more great anecdotes to tell us after that flight, as would the rest of the crew.
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: Overflow on 01/07/2018 12:07 AM
Just saw the news and came to pay my respects.

RIP John. You lived one hell of a life. The type of life we should all strive for.

Godspeed.
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: NASAGeek on 01/07/2018 12:24 AM
Godspeed Captain Young. You were my favorite astronaut. I'm very saddened by the news.
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: Eric Hedman on 01/07/2018 12:45 AM
This is sad for many reasons.  He was and still is and always will be a legend.  If you get a chance to go see one of these guys at any event, do not hesitate - go!  You will not regret taking the time.  Last summer I went to see what was billed as the last Apollo reunion.  It is one of my greatest memories.  I was fortunate that this even was only 90 miles from my home.  People came from all over the world to see this.  A number told me afterwards it was well worth the trip.

These videos are worth watching

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/3309/1 (http://www.thespacereview.com/article/3309/1)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlpoJMtLdeg (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlpoJMtLdeg)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KyLTZtaumAs (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KyLTZtaumAs)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_oQ0x1gsLQU (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_oQ0x1gsLQU)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4HTH-zsHWQ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4HTH-zsHWQ)

full evening presentation:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5_hiKILhpk (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5_hiKILhpk)
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: Alpha Control on 01/07/2018 03:28 AM
Oh my.  I just heard this sad news tonight.

John Young was one of my heroes. While I was aware of Apollo 11, and followed Skylab somewhat in the 70s, I really became a regular follower of space activities with the Shuttle. 

I was in my early 20s, and STS-1 was a huge event for me.  I followed the shuttle program through the best resource at that time, which was Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine, with the superb Craig Covault regularly chronicling the progress of the Space Shuttle.  I still have their special edition of  "Flying the Space Shuttle", which was a collection of their many Space Shuttle articles.  NASA TV was also up & running on cable TV, which I had subscribed to, so I could follow all the shuttle missions.

John Young was a U.S. Navy fighter pilot and test pilot - just like my dad.  I admired him, for his skills, but also for being himself.
I never met him in person, but I appreciated his candor regarding safety. And I always loved his refreshing comments regarding the Space Shuttle after the 1st flight:  "The world's greatest all-electric flying machine".

Godspeed, John Young.

May he rest in peace.
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: robertross on 01/07/2018 12:17 PM
RIP John Young.

One of the great heroes spanning generations in mankind's push towards the unknown.

God Bless
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 01/07/2018 12:20 PM
Quote
We offer our deepest condolences to John Young's family and loved ones. Millions of people will remember legendary astronaut forever. // Выражаем соболезнования родным и близким легендарного астронавта Джона Янга

https://twitter.com/roscosmos/status/949992949294747648
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: Hankelow8 on 01/07/2018 12:34 PM
Yes, another of the great pioneering astronauts has passed away.

Privileged to say I was at the first Space Shuttle launch commanded by John Young.
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: haywoodfloyd on 01/07/2018 01:00 PM
More and more of my personal heroes are passing away.
I held a special place for John Young - the coolest, calmest astronaut - the ultimate professional.
I will miss him.
God speed John Young.
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: 2a9 on 01/07/2018 02:05 PM
Such a great sense of loss...
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: saturnapollo on 01/07/2018 02:37 PM
Very saddened to hear this. One of my heroes from the Apollo era.

Was privileged to meet him when he came across to Scotland to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Ted Fresson's first air mail route from Inverness to Kiirkwall, Orkney. Fresson was a lifelong hero of Young's and inspired him to get into aviation. Was lucky to get a seat on the ATP which recreated the route and John Young was given a chance to fly the aircraft, so I can at least say I've been on an aircraft been piloted by a moonwalker and someone I greatly admired.

RIP John Young
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: GBCT#5 on 01/07/2018 07:55 PM
Sad day.

John Young was a Personal Hero.

A Great Pilot who was never afraid to speak up/stand up for Safety and the Space Program.

RIP Capt. and thanks for the Crawler Shoes.
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: Rocket Science on 01/07/2018 07:56 PM
John was rarely if ever at a loss for words... Gold bless him...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLU4CK7UHd4
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: Ben the Space Brit on 01/07/2018 08:06 PM
A hero's hero. For so long a fixture of NASA and the manned space program that it's hard to visualise talking about him prefaced by 'the late...'
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: DwightM on 01/07/2018 08:40 PM
Like many others, he was my favorite.  To a young space enthusiast John Young was the quintessential astronaut.  I was transfixed during the time of STS 1, and learning that he was on the moon when my little brother was born just capped it off for this kid.  Many good words have been said about his legacy, may we all strive to go so far.  Rest in peace Captain, Godspeed John Young.
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: Hog on 01/07/2018 09:55 PM
No STS-1 Return To Launch Site for John Young. 

John Young, expressed that “RTLS requires continuous miracles interspersed with acts of God to be successful.”

RIP, Sir.
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: MATTBLAK on 01/08/2018 04:39 AM
His passing barely got 30 seconds on the major news networks yesterday. Terrible; but considering the so-called politics of the era we are currently in, totally unsurprising... :'( >:(
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: Oersted on 01/08/2018 02:59 PM
Privileged to say I was at the first Space Shuttle launch commanded by John Young.

Wauw, must have been amazing. What were your impressions of the day? Any surprises?
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: catdlr on 01/10/2018 05:11 AM
In honor of John Young I'm going to post the complete STS-1 Full Mission video coverage as provided by YouTube member lunarmodule5 in this thread: http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=1033.msg1769765#msg1769765
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: jacqmans on 01/12/2018 12:47 PM
NASA astronaut John Young was remembered in a ceremony at the Heroes and Legends exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. The brief memorial took place on the afternoon of Jan. 11, 2018. Young died Jan. 5, 2018, in Houston at the age of 87. He was the only astronaut to fly in NASA's Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle Programs.

Photo credit: NASA/ Frank Michaux
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: jacqmans on 01/12/2018 12:48 PM
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: jacqmans on 01/12/2018 12:49 PM
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: dawei on 01/15/2018 04:51 PM
Just want to express a belated tribute to my childhood hero John Young.  I was 12 years old when he commanded STS-1 and I have been hooked on spaceflight ever since.  I never had the honor to meet him but I have always held him in the highest respect.  My condolences to his family and friends and may we never forget his contributions to human spaceflight.
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: 807chris on 01/18/2018 01:29 AM
It has been a long while since posting and pardon this long message about the passing of John Young. However, I was quite surprised at the tempered reaction from some close to aviation and aerospace. Got me thinking. Can a case be made for Young as the top of the pyramid guy. Sent this note to a few friends. Now post it here.

---------------

I was speaking with folks about John Young’s death the other day. And we said the things people usually say, like “it happens to the best of us”. But that’s just it. That’s ground zero. Literally. The more I think about it, he was exactly and specifically the best of us. Sure, many of us can be “remember when” types who overly romanticize a swashbuckling past through grandiose rose colored lenses. And yes, I do lament drifting away from the blend of cowboy ethics and barnstorming gusto which defined so much of our last 100 years. But, perhaps there is more significance here. Perhaps his passing was more of a milestone than it seems at first blush. Maybe it is more than, “we all gotta go sometime” or “what a hero”.

Young wasn’t just a guy, he may have been the guy. Maybe in the final calculus Young is the top of the pyramid guy. Not just one of the best of them. The head honcho himself. And not by some last man standing attrition or rotation. His docile demeanor and folksy minimalism blanch the possibility that he uniquely was made of the most righteous stuff. There may be no need for a national holiday or special cross promotional Starbucks brew. However, as the ranks of his ilk evaporate we may want to realize how rarely special these fellas were. No one alive today may ever see anything like it again. Frontiers aren’t that easy to come by.

History put us at the right time and place where it would be raw moxie that made the difference because in no way were we prepared or ready to thrust off to the stars. Two centuries ago it was the American West, two centuries before that it was the new world, and the beat goes on. The test pilot’s creed of “Ad Explorata” has described a special breed for centuries. Toward the unexplored. That’s what drove John Young. He wasn’t just a hot shoe looking for a thrill riding rockets. He was just as in love with exploration and did what he did to push us further out there. And that meant taking a risk so obscenely huge it is numbing in retrospect.

Wilbur and Orville knew more about what they were getting into on the windy sands of Kitty Hawk than the two astronauts strapped into the Space Shuttle for its maiden flight in 1981. John Young punched his own ticket to command the mission as head of the astronaut office, alongside him was rookie Robert Crippen. Simply put, it was the greatest “all balls out” testflight in the history of anything with wings or engines. The most complex flying machine ever devised and the most un-tested.

In a departure with every manned program that had come before it, not one major component was flight proven. There could be no un-manned shakedown runs as there had been in the past. Computers were not yet up to the task of handling something so daunting. Someone was just going to have to get in the beast and fly it. That would require conquering more firsts than anything before or since.

Nothing like it had ever existed. Some engineers will tell you building the shuttle was magnitudes more difficult than landing on the moon. The record suggests it’s true. The technology wasn’t there yet. The experience wasn’t there yet. The shuttle was a leap into future we had no business attempting. Just the thing steely eyed missile men overconfident from their ongoing lunar conquests are apt to tackle. Matter of fact, John Young and Charlie Duke were saluting old glory on the surface of the moon the very day NASA got the green light to make the shuttle happen.

It did not go well. Nearly every system was beyond the cutting edge. Airframe, heat shield, engines, design, size, flight profile and goals were all vastly unlike anything preceding. While 3 Apollo astronauts were getting plucked out of the ocean from single use Volkswagen Beetle sized capsules, a shuttle crew of 7 would fly back to earth in a Mach 25 glider roughly the size of a DC-9 with the idea of being ready to launch again in only 2 weeks. 

Those damn engines. Why were they exploding all the time? Pound for pound still the most powerful rocket motors ever made. Guzzling liquid hydrogen. Designed for 100 flights each. That’s 99 more than anything flying at the time. There would be no flying though until they stopped violently and abruptly disassembling during static fire tests. That is a kind way to say blowing themselves to bits. And even if you did get a few good tests, were they ready? Were the Rocketdyne RS-25’s ready to be ridden?

When congress pressured the budget NASA had no choice but to strap the shuttle to the side of its gigantic hydrogen tank to allow a parallel burn configuration with solid rocket boosters. Christ. Solids? You are going to put people on top of solids? There is no way to turn those fuckers off once lit. You’re locked in for 2 minutes of rough riding. Biggest firecrackers in the world. Biggest solids ever made. Only ones ever to launch crews.

The shuttles long gliding re-entry meant prolonged exposure to atmospheric friction which creates 3,000 degree heat. A hot airframe made of titanium or other advanced metals would be the ideal choice but weight would only allow a cold airframe of buttery soft aluminum. This would have to be protected by something invented exclusively for the shuttle, silica based tiles, a fancy word for quartz sand. Each one machined to the precise contours it was to cover. Only one problem, why are they not sticking to the shuttle? Why are these things falling off? Hell. When Columbia was flown from North American Rockwell’s Palmdale California factory to the Kennedy Space Center to undergo its first pre-launch processing heat shield tiles came unglued and rained parts across this country’s breadbasket, just from the 300 miles per hour cruise perched atop a 747. Orbit? Mach 25? Hmm.

So, the delays stacked up. Months became years. The miracle makers at NASA were not used to scrutiny, questions and failures. There was talk of just axing the entire program. Leaving the country with 14 billion dollars of nothing and no other options. As it was, we had not flown in space for six years. There was still great concern about the Soviets.

At some point, the individual parts stopped failing or at least stop failing as often. The most complicated piece of space hardware likely to ever be built was rolled out to the launch pad and it was time to go. There was no advanced computer modeling to let folks know how it would go, but they would go. The projections they had turned out to be wrong anyway. Engineers misjudged the amount of sound suppression water hosing the pad during ignition allowing powerful shockwaves to slam back into the orbiter. Columbia was potentially mortally damaged even before the explosive bolts released it to ascend. Unknown to Young, Crippen and NASA were parts bent beyond their structural tolerances. And those engines, those glorious engines that would go on to never terminally fail during 135 flights, out performed all expectations lofting the shuttle higher and faster than calculated. The fatal flaws that later killed two crews were there too, lurking hidden in wait to strike at a more painfully unexpected time.

There was no viable means of escape or abort during a shuttle mission, especially ascent. Previous space travelers had ejection seats or launch escape towers ready to pull them away to safety from a self destructing booster. No one in the astronaut corps dare whisper that shuttle ejection seats were window dressing for wives and the press. Fly it back or die in it.

Two days later, after a tortuous communication blackout which prevents radio contact during re-entry, the first shuttle pilots would do just that. Deadstick landing. One try is all you get. Science fiction becomes science fact. Men had actually flown back from space with wings, the way God intended it.

And there is John Young. Known to forever be cool as a cucumber. The only person to command four different types of spacecraft. Whose heart rate never ventured above 70 beats per minute while saddled up on the mighty Saturn 5 rocket on his way to land on the moon. There he is, running around the shuttle after landing like a kid who just pitched the little league championship, more excited than you’ve ever seen any astronaut or pilot...or kid after a little league win.

It is really tough to understand the gravity of all this free from the distortion of history. The best hopes and dreams of the shuttle program were never realized. Rather than a lasting step further into the solar system it became a program in search of a purpose. Young and those around him believed as explorers they were driving the golden spike.

Even before the Challenger explosion delivered NASA an icy sobering lesson in confirmation bias, it was clear the thing would not work as intended. Shuttles would always remain experimental vehicles. The loss of confidence and support stopped many projects. Operational spaceflight to open the heavens to a new wave of Magellans would have to wait. We are still waiting. But it is hard to imagine that when it does happen it will be as daring and nor should it be. We now have the tools to better model outcome and the cocky bravado once required would now be regarded as silly rather than brave.

But there was a time we should not be quick to forget. And there are people who we should burn the flame for. They are from a time when we could not or just did not want to wait.
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: Oersted on 01/19/2018 08:14 PM
Beautiful write-up.
Title: Re: John Young has passed away
Post by: 807chris on 01/20/2018 06:48 PM
Thank you Oersted.

Just trying to keep the flame burning.

Never had the chance to meet Young. But I did make it to the STS-9 launch as a kid.