After training at the United States Naval Test Pilot School in 1959 with the Class 23, Young was assigned to the Naval Air Test Center at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, for three years. His test projects included evaluations of the XF8U-3 Crusader III and F-4 Phantom II fighter weapons systems. In 1962, he set two world time-to-climb records while flying his Phantom II, attaining 3,000 meters (9,843 ft) from a standing start in 34.52 seconds and 25,000 meters (82,021 ft) from a standing start in 227.6 seconds. He also served as maintenance officer of Fighter Squadron 143 (VF-143) from April to September 1962.
Fellow astronaut Charles Bolden described Young and Robert "Hoot" Gibson as the two best pilots he had met during his aviation career: "Never met two people like them. Everyone else gets into an airplane; John and Hoot wear their airplane. They're just awesome". Young retired from the Navy as a Captain in September 1976, after 25 years.
Young, age 34, as pilot of Gemini 3
Young following his Gemini 10 flight
Joining NASA in 1962, Young was the first of the Astronaut Group 2 to fly in space, replacing Thomas P. Stafford as pilot of Gemini 3 when Alan Shepard, the original command pilot, was grounded due to Ménière's disease. Making the first crewed flight of the Gemini spacecraft with Gus Grissom in 1965, Young scored another space first by smuggling a corned beef sandwich onto the spacecraft—a feat for which he was reprimanded. Some members of the U.S. House of Representatives were not pleased about the stunt, claiming that Young cost taxpayers millions of dollars by disrupting a scheduled test of space food during the flight.
In 1966, Young was assigned to an Apollo crew as Command Module pilot, with Commander Thomas Stafford and Lunar Module pilot Eugene Cernan. This crew was assigned as backup to the second crewed Apollo mission, planned before the Apollo 1 fire. After that fire, both crews[clarification needed] were assigned to the first actual crewed mission, Apollo 7, which flew in October 1968. In May 1969, this crew flew to the Moon on Apollo 10. While Stafford and Cernan flew the Lunar Module in lunar orbit for the first time, Young flew the Command Module solo. Apollo 10 set the record for the highest speed attained by any crewed vehicle at 39,897 kilometres per hour (24,791 mph) during its return to Earth on May 26, 1969.
Young was backup commander of Apollo 13, the troubled mission in which the Moon landing was aborted because of an explosion in the Service Module.
By rotation, Young became commander of Apollo 16, and studied geology with his crew while preparing for the mission. Apollo 16's lunar landing was almost aborted when a malfunction was detected in the SPS engine control system in the Service Module. It was determined that the problem could be worked around, and the mission continued. On the surface, Young took three moonwalks in the Descartes Highlands with Charles Duke on April 21, 22 and 23, 1972, making Young the ninth person to walk on the surface of the Moon, while Ken Mattingly flew the Command Module in lunar orbit.
Young's final assignment in Apollo was as the backup commander for Cernan on Apollo 17. The backup crew was originally the Apollo 15 crew, but Deke Slayton removed them from the assignment when he learned they had taken a small statue to the Moon, as well as stamps that they sold to a dealer.
Space Shuttle program
Young as Commander of STS-1, maiden Space Shuttle flight
In January 1973 Young was made Chief of the Space Shuttle Branch of the Astronaut Office. In January 1974, he became Chief of the Astronaut Office after the retirement of Alan Shepard.
Young was openly critical of NASA management following the Challenger disaster, and in April 1987 was made Special Assistant to JSC Director Aaron Cohen for Engineering, Operations and Safety. NASA denied that his criticism triggered the move, although Young and industry insiders believed that was the reason for the reassignment. In February 1996, he was assigned as Associate Director (Technical) JSC.
During his NASA career, Young logged more than 15,000 hours of training, mostly in simulators, to prepare for positions on eleven spaceflights in prime and backup crew positions.
Young worked for NASA for 42 years and announced his retirement on December 7, 2004. He retired on December 31, 2004, at the age of 74, but continued to attend the Monday Morning Meeting at the Astronaut Office at JSC for several years thereafter. He logged more than 15,275 hours flying time in props, jets, helicopters, and rocket jets; more than 9,200 hours in T-38s; and 835 hours in spacecraft during six space flights.
In 2012, Young published an autobiography, Forever Young.
Young married Barbara White of Savannah, Georgia, and they had two children, Sandra and John. They were divorced in 1972 after 16 years of marriage. He later married Susy Feldman, and lived in El Lago, Texas, a suburb of Houston.
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Thompson, Neal (2004). Light This Candle: The Life & Times of Alan Shepard, America's First Spaceman (1st ed.). New York: Crown Publishers. ISBN 0-609-61001-5. LCCN2003015688. OCLC 52631310.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
"Conversation With John Young", Houston Chronicle (December 17, 2004)
"The Big Picture: Ways to Mitigate or Prevent Very Bad Planet Earth Events", an essay by Young
Wikimedia Commons has media related to John Young (astronaut).
Interview with John Young for NOVA series: To the Moon WGBH Educational Foundation, raw footage, 1998