John Young, moonwalker and early shuttle commander, is dead at 87, NASA says

Astronaut John Young, who walked on the moon and later commanded the first space shuttle flight, has died, NASA says. He was 87.

The space agency said Young died Friday night following complications from pneumonia. He died at his home in Houston.

NASA said Young was 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. He was the ninth man to walk on the moon.


John Young died Friday night following complications from pneumonia, NASA said.  (NASA)

Former President George H.W. Bush offered his condolences.

"John was more than a good friend; he was a fearless patriot whose courage and commitment to duty helped our Nation push back the horizon of discovery at a critical time," Bush said in a statement. "To us, he represented the best in the American spirit -- always looking forward, always reaching higher. John leaves a tremendous legacy of accomplishment, in addition to his wonderful family. May his memory serve to inspire future generations of explorers to dare greatly, act boldly, and serve selflessly."    

Robert M. Lightfoot Jr., the administrator of NASA, called Young “a pioneer.”

“John was one of that group of early space pioneers whose bravery and commitment sparked our nation's first great achievements in space,” Lightfoot said in a statement. 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.”

“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,” Lightfoot concluded.

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 space shuttle Columbia in the early 1980s.

Young spent his last 17 years at Johnson Space Center in Houston in management, focusing on safety issues. He retired at the end of 2004.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.