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He spent his last 17 years at Nasa's Johnson Space Center in Houston in management, focusing on safety issues.

From there, Young joined the Apollo program, where he was assigned to the Apollo 7 backup crew as the Command Module Pilot, along with astronauts Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan.

NASA shared photos on its Twitter account confirming the sad news saying, "We're saddened by the loss of astronaut John Young, who was 87".

Young is the only United States astronaut to go into space as part of the Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle programmes and the first to fly into space six times, said NASA. He flew on the first manned flight of the Gemini spacecraft in 1965 (and led a flight in 1966), traveled to the Moon twice (including a moonwalk during Apollo 16) and played a key role in the rescue of Apollo 13 by helping to stretch out its resources. Young flew twice to the Moon, walked on its surface & flew the first Space Shuttle mission. The first person to go to space six times, seven if you count his lunar liftoff. He flew twice during the two-man Gemini missions of the mid-1960s, twice to the moon during Nasa's Apollo program, and twice more aboard the new space shuttle Columbia in the early 1980s.

At NASA, Young enjoyed a notable career. That crew later became the prime crew for Apollo 10, which performed a "dress rehearsal" in May 1969 for the Apollo 11 mission later that summer. "Anybody who ever flew in space admired John", he said. In picture in the background is seen the Apollo 10 space vehicle on Launch Pad 39 B. The three crewmen had just completed a Countdown Demonstration Test exercise.

Astronaut Wally Schirra, who was not flying on the mission, bought the corned beef sandwich on rye bread from a delicatessen in Cocoa Beach, Florida, and asked Young to give it to Grissom in space.

Legendary astronaut, moonwalker John Young has died

He retired from NASA in 2004.

"John Young was at the forefront of human space exploration with his poise, talent, and tenacity", Lightfoot said. He was graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1952 with a degree in aeronautical engineering.

He went on to join the Navy and serve in Korea. But he was also described as a savvy engineer and a "test pilot's test pilot".

Mr Young received more than 100 major accolades in his lifetime, including the prestigious Congressional Space Medal of Honour in 1981.

"To us, he represented the best in the American spirit - always looking forward, always reaching higher", Bush said in a statement. "John leaves a tremendous legacy of accomplishment, in addition to his wonderful family", Bush said. "May his memory serve to inspire future generations of explorers to dare greatly, act boldly and serve selflessly".


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