John Young cemented his legacy at NASA as a Moon walker on Apollo 16
and Commander of the first space shuttle mission. He has now officially earned his place amongst the stars, as the International Astronomical Union designated asteroid 5362 Johnyoung in his honor.
Young transformed his childhood hobby of making model airplanes into a career as a fighter pilot and later an astronaut. He graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in aeronautical engineering and joined the Navy, where he completed test pilot training and served at the Navy’s Air Test Center.
After establishing his career as a fighter pilot, including completing test pilot training and serving at the Navy Air Test Center at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. Young was selected in 1962 as part of NASA’s second group of astronauts, “The New Nine.” This group of explorers included the first humans to venture beyond Earth’s gravity, and included Neil Armstong, Jim Lovelll, and Tom Stafford. John went on to become one of only three people who have flown to the moon twice, commanded the space shuttle’s first launch, and served as Chief of the Astronaut Office.
During his service at NASA that spanned more than four decades, Young left a lasting impact on everyone he encountered. One of these people is Rob Landis, an engineer in the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) division at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, who was so moved by Young’s contributions that he took it upon himself to ensure that an asteroid was named in his honor after he passed away on January 5, 2018 at the age of 87.
Landis was only 13 years old when he saw a NASA brochure that was hanging up at his local university, where he had the opportunity to study astronomy a as a teenager.
“John struck me as an unusual explorer,” Landis said. “I noticed a NASA astronaut selection brochure pinned to a bulletin board with the directions indicating to send materials to mail code AHX. I did not know what that meant, but I knew who John Young was.”
While not old enough to apply, Landis decided to write a letter to Young, who was serving as Chief of the Astronaut Office, inquiring about what the requirements to become an astronaut might be in the 1990s. To his surprise, he received a letter back.
“Believe it or not, John wrote me back.” Landis said. “He told me that he wouldn’t be able to speculate an answer, but it still encouraged me to pursue the dream of working for NASA. Although I didn’t become an astronaut, I have had an amazing, 20-year career at NASA that I wouldn’t trade for anything.”
Asteroid 5362 Johnyoung is located in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter and was discovered in 1978 during efforts to explore the path of Voyager-1. The asteroid, which was re-designated to honor Young after originally being named 1978 CH, completes one full rotation every 6.88 hours and a revolution around the sun every 6.23 years.
John Young would have turned 88 years old today (Sept. 24, 2018), and while he is no longer with us on Earth, he has definitely earned his place among the stars.
Johnson Space Center
John Young on the Moon, with the Lunar Module and Lunar Rover in the background.