ROME, GA — John Young. He was the astronaut’s-astronaut.
A depression-era youth who grew up in northwest Georgia to become the seventh man to walk on the moon discussed his life in his recently released autobiography.
As a young boy attending school in Cartersville, located 40 miles north of Atlanta, John W. Young late in his life wrote about his meager life in the small town. And, how his strengths carried him on to college and into a flying career with the U.S. Navy and later upward to NASA.
Forever Young: A Life of Adventure in Air and Space (2013) is the book on the life of a true American hero, John Watts Young. Co-authored by James R. Hansen, Forever Young puts you on the flight deck and in the cockpit as Young prepares to push America forward in the space race and toward space research.
Young described his father’s job at a Cartersville filling station as a temporary one after being laid off from a prominent job as a world traveling civil engineer during the height of the economic collapse.
Young, who passed away on Friday at the age of 87, wrote about his love of model airplanes as a young boy, and how it set the stage for his adult life.
Following high school graduation, Young enrolled at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, and graduated in 1952 with a degree in aeronautical engineering. Young later became a naval aviator having graduated from Navy Test Pilot school in 1959, and in 1965, he soared into orbit with Gus Grissom aboard the first Gemini space flight.
His third trip into space was Apollo 10 which became the first Apollo mission to carry the lunar module to the moon. The flight was note worthy as it set the stage for the first moon landing two months later.
The crew of Apollo 10 also set the record for the fastest speed ever traveled by humans, 24,791 m.p.h., as their command module raced toward earth.
In all, John Young flew in space six times, including two trips to the moon and twice as commander of the space shuttle Columbia. He logged 35 days in space of which four days were spent on the lunar surface.
During Apollo 16, he and Charlie Duke explored the Descartes Highlands on the moon during three moonwalks. The pair collected 211 pounds of lunar material and travels some 16 miles in their lunar rover.
The self-described Georgia boy even hopped up the slopes of Stone Mountain, located on the Moon, and named it for the popular quartz monzonite mountain located east of Atlanta.
Young’s final space flight landing in 1983 proved to be his most “exciting”, as he describes it.
Columbia’s computers which controlled landing began to “crash” hours before her touchdown. Then minutes prior to her dynamic landing in the California desert, power units which help the shuttle fly began to fail, and Columbia’s aft section caught fire caused by leaking fuel.
Young officially left NASA on December 31, 2004, following a storied career. In all, according to NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Young “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”.
Forever Young is an incredible read, fast paced at times with great insight into Young’s mind as he takes you with him as he soars into earth orbit and upon the vast ocean of space. The book delves quickly into the early days of human spaceflight, including both NASA’s highlights and low moments.
(Charles A Atkeison reports on aerospace and science. Follow his updates via Twitter @Military_Flight.)