CAPE CANAVERAL -- John Young, who walked on the moon and later commanded the first space shuttle mission, is retiring from NASA this month at 74 years old.
The Orlando native first flew to space in 1965 on a Gemini mission with the late Gus Grissom. In 1972, he walked on the moon in the next-to-last Apollo flight. Almost a decade later, Young and pilot Bob Crippen took Columbia on its maiden voyage.
The National Air and Space Museum in Washington plans a special celebration in Young's honor on Tuesday.
"NASA is saying goodbye to a living legend and a giant within the agency," Kennedy Space Center Director James Kennedy wrote in a letter to employees published Friday.
"John Young will be missed, but his legacy of success, triumph and accomplishment will live on at NASA," Kennedy wrote to employees.
After the moon mission, Young became chief of NASA's astronaut corps, a job he kept until 1987. Young's final space flight was the ninth shuttle flight, also aboard Columbia, in 1983.
In 1987, after speaking out about safety problems in the wake of the Challenger disaster, Young was re-assigned to a job as a special assistant at NASA's Johnson Space Center where he specialized in shuttle safety issues.
Young became an associate director at JSC responsible for technical and safety oversight of all programs assigned to that center. Throughout that time frame, he was still an astronaut and could have been assigned another shuttle flight.
Published under license from FLORIDA TODAY. Copyright ? 2004 FLORIDA TODAY. No portion of this material may be reproduced in any way without the written consent of FLORIDA TODAY.
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John Kelly is the director of data journalism for ABC-owned TV stations at Walt Disney Television. An investigative reporter and data journalist, John covered space exploration, NASA and aerospace as a reporter for Florida Today for 11 years, four of those on the Space Reporter beat. John earned a journalism degree from the University of Kentucky and wrote for the Shelbyville News and Associated Press before joining Florida Today's space team. In 2013, John joined the data investigation team at USA Today and became director of data journalism there in 2018 before joining Disney in 2019. John is a two-time winner of the Edward R. Murrow award in 2020 and 2021, won a Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting in 2020 and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Investigative Reporting in 2017. You can follow John on Twitter.