Like many kids in the 60s, I was fascinated by the space program. My earliest memory is riding my tricycle through our apartment, President Kennedy on the TV announcing a successful flight. My first globe—a fifth birthday present from my grandmother—traced the three orbits John Glenn took in Friendship 7. If my parents wanted me out of their hair for a while, a trip to the Hayden Planetarium of the Hall of Science (where you could help dock the LEM to the Apollo capsule) did the trick. I wanted to be an astronaut, at least until I discovered they had to drink their own urine. And realized you had to be good at math.
That didn’t stop me from cheering when Neil Armstrong took that one small step for mankind. It felt like we all took that step together, a sense of mission missing from our current poisonous culture, where our President would rather come up with snide nicknames for his enemies than give this nation something to aspire to. Which made reading about the death of John Young especially sad—one more hero gone.
He wasn’t as famous as Glenn or Armstrong , but Young walked on the moon (as part of Apollo 16, the next-to-last moon landing) and was the only man to fly Gemini, Apollo, and Space Shuttle missions.
Tonight, look the sky and salute John Young, an embodiment of American greatness.
(Updated to correct the year of Young’s death)