Tag Archives: John Watts Young

24 September 1930

John Watts Young (NASA)
John Watts Young (NASA)


PERSONAL DATA: Born September 24, 1930, in San Francisco, California. Married to the former Susy Feldman of St. Louis, Missouri. Two children, three grandchildren. Enjoys wind surfing, bicycling, reading, and gardening.

EDUCATION: Graduated from Orlando High School, Orlando, Florida; received a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering with highest honors from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1952.

ORGANIZATIONS: Fellow of the American Astronautical Society (AAS), the Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP), and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

SPECIAL HONORS: Awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor (1981), 4 NASA Distinguished Service Medals, NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal (1992), NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal (1987), NASA Outstanding Achievement Medal (1994), Navy Astronaut Wings (1965), 2 Navy Distinguished Service Medals, 3 Navy Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Georgia Tech Distinguished Young Alumni Award (1965), Distinguished Service Alumni Award (1972), the Exceptional Engineering Achievement Award (1985), the Academy of Distinguished Engineering Alumni (1994), and the American Astronautical Society Space Flight Award (1993), Distinguished Executive Award (1998), Rotary National Space Achievement Award (2000). Inducted into 6 Aviation and Astronaut Halls of Fame. Recipient of more than 80 other major awards, including 6 honorary doctorate degrees.

NAVY EXPERIENCE: Upon graduation from Georgia Tech, Young entered the United States Navy. After serving on the west coast destroyer USS LAWS (DD-558) in the Korean War, he was sent to flight training. He was then assigned to Fighter Squadron 103 for 4 years, flying Cougars and Crusaders.

After test pilot training at the U.S. Navy Test Pilot School in 1959, he was assigned to the Naval Air Test Center for 3 years. His test projects included evaluations of the Crusader and Phantom fighter weapons systems. In 1962, he set world time-to-climb records to 3,000-meter and 25,000-meter altitudes in the Phantom. Prior to reporting to NASA, he was maintenance officer of Phantom Fighter Squadron 143. Young retired from the Navy as a Captain in September 1976, after completing 25 years of active military service.

NASA EXPERIENCE: In September 1962, Young was selected as an astronaut. He is the first person to fly in space six times from earth, and seven times counting his lunar liftoff. The first flight was with Gus Grissom in Gemini 3, the first manned Gemini mission, on March 23, 1965. This was a complete end-to-end test of the Gemini spacecraft, during which Gus accomplished the first manual change of orbit altitude and plane and the first lifting reentry, and Young operated the first computer on a manned spacecraft. On Gemini 10, July 18-21, 1966, Young, as Commander, and Mike Collins, as Pilot, completed a dual rendezvous with two separate Agena target vehicles. While Young flew close formation on the second Agena, Mike Collins did an extravehicular transfer to retrieve a micro meteorite detector from that Agena. On his third flight, May 18-26, 1969, Young was Command Module Pilot of Apollo 10. Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan were also on this mission which orbited the Moon, completed a lunar rendezvous, and tracked proposed lunar landing sites. His fourth space flight, Apollo 16, April 16-27, 1972, was a lunar exploration mission, with Young as Spacecraft Commander, and Ken Mattingly and Charlie Duke. Young and Duke set up scientific equipment and explored the lunar highlands at Descartes. They collected 200 pounds of rocks and drove over 16 miles in the lunar rover on three separate geology traverses.

Young’s fifth flight was as Spacecraft Commander of STS-1, the first flight of the Space Shuttle, April 12-14, 1981, with Bob Crippen as Pilot. The 54-1/2 hour, 36-orbit mission verified Space Shuttle systems performance during launch, on orbit, and entry. Tests of the Orbiter Columbia included evaluation of mechanical systems including the payload bay doors, the attitude and maneuvering rocket thrusters, guidance and navigation systems, and Orbiter/crew compatibility. One hundred and thirty three of the mission’s flight test objectives were accomplished. The Orbiter Columbia was the first manned spaceship tested during ascent, on orbit, and entry without benefit of previous unmanned missions. Columbia was also the first winged reentry vehicle to return from space to a runway landing. It weighed about 98 tons as Young landed it on the dry lakebed at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Young’s sixth flight was as Spacecraft Commander of STS-9, the first Spacelab mission, November 28-December 8, 1983, with Pilot Brewster Shaw, Mission Specialists Bob Parker and Owen Garriott, and Payload Specialists Byron Lichtenberg of the USA and Ulf Merbold of West Germany. The mission successfully completed all 94 of its flight test objectives. For ten days the 6-man crew worked 12-hour shifts around-the-clock, performing more than 70 experiments in the fields of atmospheric physics, Earth observations, space plasma physics, astronomy and solar physics, materials processing and life sciences. The mission returned more scientific and technical data than all the previous Apollo and Skylab missions put together. The Spacelab was brought back for re-use, so that Columbia weighed over 110 tons as Young landed the spaceship at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Young was also on five backup space flight crews: backup pilot in Gemini 6, backup command module pilot for the second Apollo mission (before the Apollo Program fire) and Apollo 7, and backup spacecraft commander for Apollo 13 and 17. In preparation for prime and backup crew positions on eleven space flights, Young has put more than 15,000 hours into training so far, mostly in simulators and simulations.

He has logged more than 15,275 hours flying time in props, jets, helicopters, rocket jets, more than 9,200 hours in T-38s, and six space flights of 835 hours.

In January 1973, Young was made Chief of the Space Shuttle Branch of the Astronaut Office, providing operational and engineering astronaut support for the design and development of the Space Shuttle. In January 1974, he was selected to be Chief of the Astronaut Office, with responsibility for the coordination, scheduling, and control of activities of the astronauts. Young served as Chief of the Astronaut Office until May 1987. During his tenure, astronaut flight crews participated in the Apollo-Soyuz joint American-Russian docking mission, the Space Shuttle Orbiter Approach and Landing Test Program, and 25 Space Shuttle missions. From May 1987 to February 1996, Young served as Special Assistant to the Director of JSC for Engineering, Operations, and Safety. In that position, he had direct access to the Center Director and other senior managers in defining and resolving issues affecting the continued safe operation of the Space Shuttle. Additionally, he assisted the Center Director in providing advice and counsel on engineering, operational, and safety matters related to the Space Station, Shuttle upgrades, and advanced human Space Exploration Programs, back to the Moon and on to Mars.

In February 1996 Young was assigned as Associate Director (Technical), responsible for technical, operational and safety oversight of all Agency Programs and activities assigned to the Johnson Space Center. On December 31, 2004 Young retired from NASA. He continues to advocate the development of the technologies that will allow us to live and work on the Moon and Mars. Those technologies over the long (or short) haul will save civilization on Earth. the official biography of John W. Young from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas 77058 .

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18 July 1966, 22:20:26.648 UTC, T minus Zero

John W. Young and Michael Collins, the flight crew of Gemini 10. (NASA)

18 July 1966: At 22:20:26.648 UTC, Gemini 10 launched from Launch Complex 19 at the Cape Kennedy Air Force Station. The two astronauts aboard were John W. Young, on his second space flight, and Michael Collins. The launch vehicle was a liquid-fueled Martin SLV-4 Titan II, serial number 62-12565.

This well-worn Omega Speedmaster chronograph was worn by John Young during the Gemini 10 mission. (Smithsonian Institution)

The objective of the Gemini 10 mission was to demonstrate orbital rendezvous and docking with another spacecraft, as well as “EVA”—Extra Vehicular Activity. The Gemini capsule docked with an Agena target vehicle which had been launched one hour before. The flight crew opened the hatches and Michael Collins stood in the opening, taking photographs.

After undocking, the Gemini located and docked with another Agena from the earlier Gemini 8 flight. Collins this time left the capsule and retrieved some experiments from the dormant target vehicle before returning to Gemini 10.

After nearly three days in space, they landed in the Pacific Ocean, 3.86 miles (6.21 kilometers) from the primary recovery ship, USS Guadalcanal (LPH-7). The total duration of the flight was 2 days, 22 hours, 46 minutes, 39 seconds.

FAI Record File Num #10285 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: Astronau (Space records)
Sub-Class: K_Absolute (Absolute record for Astronautics)
Category: General
Group: Not applicable
Type of record: Absolute distance
Performance: Precision landing: 6.21 km
Date: 1966-07-21
Course/Location: Cape Kennedy, FL (USA)
Claimant John Watts Young (USA)
Spacecraft: NASA Gemini 10

Both astronauts went on to the Apollo program, with Collins serving as Command Module Pilot for the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, and John Young as CMP for Apollo 10. Young commanded Apollo 16, and the first space shuttle flight, Columbia STS-1 and Columbia STS-9. He was scheduled to command STS-61J to deploy the Hubble Space Telescope, but that flight  was put off by the Challenger disaster. Collins went on to head the National Air and Space Museum and LTV Aerospace.

Gemini 10 is at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, awaiting restoration.

Gemini 10 launches from LC-19, Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, at 22:20:26 UTC, 18 July 1966. (NASA)
Gemini 10 launches from LC-19, Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, at 22:20:26 UTC, 18 July 1966. (NASA)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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21 April 1972, 02:23:35 UTC, T + 104:29:35

Apollo 16 Lunar Module Orion at the Descartes Highlands.
Apollo 16 Lunar Module Orion at the Descartes Highlands.

21 April 1972, 02:23:35 UTC: Lunar Module Orion (LM-11) touched down on the surface of the Moon at the Descartes Highlands. On board were the Mission Commander, Captain John Watts Young, United States Navy, and Lunar Module Pilot Lieutenant Colonel Charles M. Duke, Jr., United States Air Force. They were the ninth and tenth humans to stand on the Moon.

Technical problems delayed Orion‘s descent for three orbits. Lieutenant Commander Thomas K. (Ken) Mattingly II, U.S.N., the Command Module Pilot, remained in lunar orbit aboard Casper (CSM-113).

As they neared the surface they started to see dust blowing at about 80 feet (24 meters). The lunar module hovered briefly before continued downward.

104:29:22 Duke: Okay, 2 down. Stand by for contact. Come on, let her down. You leveled off. (Pause) Let her on down. Okay, 7. . . 6 percent [fuel remaining]. Plenty fat.

104:29:36 Duke: Contact! Stop. (Pause while they drop to the surface) Boom.

During a debriefing, John Young said, “When we got the Contact light, I counted ‘one-potato’ and shut the engine down. The thing fell out of the sky the last three feet. I know it did. I don’t know how much we were coming down, maybe a foot a second.”

Teh surface of the Moon as seen through the window of the Lunar Module, shortly after landing. (NASA)
The surface of the Moon as seen through the window of the Lunar Module, shortly after landing. (NASA)

Young and Duke remained on the surface for 2 days, 23 hours, 2 minutes, 12 seconds. During that time, they performed three EVAs totaling 20 hours, 14 minutes, 20 seconds. They drove their Lunar Roving Vehicle 16.6 miles (26.7 kilometers).

Looking northeast at John Young with the LRV, 22 April 1972. (Charles M. Duke, Jr./NASA)
Looking northeast at John Young with the LRV, 22 April 1972. (Charles M. Duke, Jr./NASA)

A remote television camera was placed on the surface and captured color images of the Lunar Module Ascent Stage departing the Moon for lunar orbit at 01:25:47 UTC, 24 April 1972.

Ascent Stage launch, 01;25:47 UTC, 24 April 1972. (NASA)
Ascent Stage launch, 01:25:47 UTC, 24 April 1972. (NASA)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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16 April 1972, 17:54:00 UTC, T plus 000:00:00.59

Apollo 16 (AS-511) lifts off from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 17;54:00 UTC, 16 April 1972. (NASA)
Apollo 16 (AS-511) lifts off from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 17:54:00 UTC, 16 April 1972. (NASA)

16 April 1972: At 17:54:00 UTC (12:54 p.m., Eastern Standard Time), Apollo 16 was launched from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. Aboard were Captain John Watts Young, United States Navy, the Mission Commander, on his fourth space flight; Lieutenant Commander Thomas Kenneth Mattingly II, U.S. Navy, Command Module Pilot, who had been scheduled for the Apollo 13 mission; and Lieutenant Colonel Charles Moss Duke, Jr., U.S. Air Force, Lunar Module Pilot. Apollo 16 was the tenth manned Apollo mission, and the fifth to land on The Moon. The landing site was in the Descartes Highlands.

The Saturn V lifted off at T + 000:00:00.59 and quickly accelerated, reaching Mach 1 one minute, 7.5 seconds after launch (T + 01:07.5). The S-IC first stage engines cut off and the stage separated at T + 02:43.5. The S-II stage continued to drive the space craft, and Apollo 16 entered Earth orbit at 18:05:56.21 UTC.

Flight Crew of Apollo 16, left to right, Thomas K. Mattingly II, John W. Young, and Charles M. Duke. (NASA)
Flight Crew of Apollo 16, left to right, Thomas K. Mattingly II, John W. Young, and Charles M. Duke, Jr. (NASA)

The Saturn V rocket was a three-stage, liquid-fueled heavy launch vehicle. Fully assembled with the Apollo Command and Service Module, it stood 363 feet (110.642 meters) tall. The first and second stages were 33 feet (10.058 meters) in diameter. Fully loaded and fueled the rocket weighed 6,200,000 pounds (2,812,273 kilograms).¹ It could lift a payload of 260,000 pounds (117,934 kilograms) to Low Earth Orbit.

The first stage was designated Saturn S-IC. It was designed to lift the entire rocket to an altitude of 220,000 feet (67,056 meters) and accelerate to a speed of more than 5,100 miles per hour (8,280 kilometers per hour). The S-IC stage was built by Boeing at the Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, Louisiana. It was 138 feet (42.062 meters) tall and had an empty weight of 290,000 pounds (131,542 kilograms). Fully fueled with 203,400 gallons (770,000 liters) of RP-1 and 318,065 gallons (1,204,000 liters) of liquid oxygen, the stage weighed 5,100,000 pounds (2,131,322 kilograms). It was propelled by five Rocketdyne F-1 engines, producing 1,522,000 pounds of thrust, each, for a total of 7,610,000 pounds of thrust at Sea Level. These engines were ignited seven seconds prior to lift off and the outer four burned for 168 seconds. The center engine was shut down after 142 seconds to reduce the rate of acceleration. The F-1 engines were built by the Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation at Canoga Park, California.

The Saturn S-II second stage was built by North American Aviation at Seal Beach, California. It was 81 feet, 7 inches (24.87 meters) tall and had the same diameter as the first stage. The second stage weighed 80,000 pounds (36,000 kilograms) empty and 1,060,000 pounds loaded. The propellant for the S-II was liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. The stage was powered by five Rocketdyne J-2 engines, also built at Canoga Park. Each engine produced 232,250 pounds of thrust, and combined, 1,161,250 pounds of thrust.

The Saturn V third stage was designated Saturn S-IVB. It was built by Douglas Aircraft Company at Huntington Beach, California. The S-IVB was 58 feet, 7 inches (17.86 meters) tall with a diameter of 21 feet, 8 inches (6.604 meters). It had a dry weight of 23,000 pounds (10,000 kilograms) and fully fueled weighed 262,000 pounds. The third stage had one J-2 engine and also used liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen for propellant. The S-IVB wou place the Command and Service Module into Low Earth Orbit, then, when all was ready, the J-2 would be restarted for the Trans Lunar Injection.

Eighteen Saturn V rockets were built. They were the most powerful machines ever built by man.

John Watts Young (NASA)
Captain John Watts Young, United States Navy. (NASA)

John Young had been a Navy test pilot before being assigned to NASA as an astronaut. He was the pilot for Gemini 3; backup pilot, Gemini 6A; commander, Gemini 10; command module pilot for Apollo 10; backup commander, Apollo 13; and commander, Apollo 16. He retired from the U.S. Navy in 1976 after 25 years of service. He would go on to command the first space shuttle flight, Columbia (STS-1) and then STS-9. He was scheduled to command Atlantis (STS-61-J). John Young retired from NASA in 2004, as one of the world’s most experienced astronauts.

¹ At First Motion (T + the Vehicle Weight of Apollo 16/Saturn V AS-511 was calculated at 6,439,605 pounds (2,920,956 kilograms).

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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14 April 1981

NASA JSC Electronic Imagery10:21 a.m., PST, 14 April 1981: The first space shuttle, Columbia, touches down on Runway 23, Edwards Air Force Base, California, completing the first space flight of the United States’ shuttle program.

With its two-man crew, commander, veteran astronaut John W. Young, and pilot Robert L. Crippen, Columbia traveled 1,074,567 miles (1,729,348 kilometers) on its 37-orbit journey, in 54 hours, 20 minutes, 53 seconds.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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