Original Space Shuttle commander John Young dies

He also flew to the Moon twice.

Spaceflight just lost one of its better-known icons: NASA astronaut John Young has died at the age of 87. He was best known as the commander of the first Space Shuttle mission, taking Columbia into orbit in 1981. However, that was just one of a series of achievements. 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. On his record-setting sixth and last spaceflight, when he flew the first Spacelab module into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle, he both avoided a mid-flight disaster and landed while an auxiliary power unit was on fire.

Young was also one of NASA's longer serving astronauts. He spent 42 years at the agency, retiring in 2004. In other words, he saw dramatic changes to spaceflight throughout his career -- he'd started during the Space Race and finished when the International Space Station had become a mainstay. His passing is both a tremendous loss and a reflection of how rapidly space travel progressed in a single lifetime.