Astronaut John Young, who walked on moon twice, dies

In his career, NASA tweeted he "flew twice to the Moon, walked on its surface and flew the first Space Shuttle mission". NASA announced earlier today that Young passed away at the age of 87 due to complications from pneumonia.

Born in San Francisco in 1930, Young gained a degree in aeronautical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and then served in the US Navy as a test pilot.

The former US Navy test pilot flew into space twice during the Gemini programme of NASA in 1960's and twice on space shuttles.

Once the USA had beaten the Soviet Union's cosmonauts to the moon and funding dried up, Young pushed NASA to return to the moon or venture to Mars, to provide the human race with a backup home in the event of Earth's destruction.

Astronaut Wally Schirra, who was not flying on the mission, bought the corned beef sandwich on rye bread from a delicatessen in Cocoa Beach, Florida, and asked Young to give it to Grissom in space.

Young flew two Gemini, two Apollo and two shuttle missions and considered the first shuttle flight the most unsafe. The two spent nearly three days in space, completing 43 orbits of Earth. That crew later became the prime crew for Apollo 10, which performed a "dress rehearsal" in May 1969 for the Apollo 11 mission later that summer. He commanded the Apollo 16 mission to the moon in 1972.

Young flew to the moon twice and landed on it once.

He and crewmate Charles Duke gathered rock and soil samples and drove the lunar rover more than 16 miles (26km). According to David Hitt and Heather R. Smith in Bold They Rise: The Space Shuttle Early Years, 1972-1986, Young learned that Congress had approved funds for the development of NASA' next big project, the Space Shuttle. The crew tested the lander module in lunar orbit without landing it. It was the first time NASA had ever launched a manned mission without first testing unmanned versions of the same vehicle. He lived in the suburbs of Houston (Texas, South), near the NASA Space Center.

Young's impressive career at NASA began in 1962 when he was selected from among hundreds of young pilots to join NASA's second astronaut class, known as the "New Nine". Over his 42 year career at the space agency, Young played key roles in some of NASA's defining moments, and helped transition the agency from its focus on reaching the Moon with Gemini and Apollo to the Space Shuttle era.

Young died Friday night following complications from pneumonia, the US space agency said in a statement.