Sunday, December 12, 2004

Moonwalker

It was a story that barely made a blip in the national media so I'd like to give a little tip of the hat to a personal hero of mine -- NASA astronaut John W. Young. This past week he announced his retirement from NASA at the age of 74 years.

Young began his career at NASA in 1962 when he was selected to be among the second group of astronauts (after the Mercury Seven) in the fledging U.S. space program. His first flight into space, in 1965 during the Gemini program, was with another NASA legend, Gus Grissom.

Later during the Apollo program, twelve Americans became the only human beings in history to walk on the surface of another world, the Moon. John Young was one of them as commander of Apollo 16 in 1972.

When the Apollo flights came to an end and NASA began the transition to the Space Shuttle era, most of the veteran astronauts left NASA and enjoyed successful careers in the private sector. John Young stayed on and continued to serve his country.

In 1981, on the first space shuttle flight, Young was at the helm as commander of the Columbia. This was followed by a second Shuttle flight in 1983.

Even after his flying days were over, Young continued at NASA working as Chief of the Astronaut Office.

At the end of December, Young will end his 42 year career at NASA leaving an incredible legacy which includes two flights to the Moon and two generations of admiring space fans, myself included.