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Astronaut John Young Has Died (npr.org)
126 points by NaOH 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 25 comments

During the launch of the Apollo 16 mission, Charles Duke had a heartbeat of 144. It’s an absolutely natural response to the sensation of 7.5 million pounds of thrust lifting 95 tons into orbit. John Young was commander of the mission. His heart rate was 70. When asked about this he simply replied in an even voice:

    “Yeah, well mine was too
     old to go any faster.”
The above is a quotation from https://medium.com/@room_n/john-young-the-astronaut-fe2c1076... which was submitted to HN some 9 months ago and got no attention. There have been a couple of other submissions[0] about Capt Young's passing, but I remember the way T.K.Mattingly, Tom Stafford, and Charlie Duke all spoke of him. They all considered him one of the best they'd ever worked or flown with.

As Scott Kelly said: Fair winds and following seas, Captain.

Another good quote by him from "In the Shadow of the Moon" (a quite amazing film/documentary of Apollo featuring interviews with the actual astronauts):

[about driving the Lunar Rover] "What really saves you up there is there's nobody coming down the road from the other way."

Check the Corn Beef Sandwich scandal.

When I first heard about it, thought the person was making stuff up. Then I got directed here - http://gemini3.spacelog.org/00:01:52:26/#log-line-6746. Also learnt that there was questioning about the incident by appropriations committee.

I love his jump-salute photo in that article. I forgot he was the one who did that on the moon.

And then there were five.

Moon walkers still living are Harrison Schmitt, Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, David Scott, and Charlie Duke.

Is there any chance we'll have another person on the moon before these guys are gone. They're all in their 80's now.

There are feats of engineering in orbit that make the Apollo program look like a bunch of rocks in slingshots. One of them has had humans on board for close to 20 years.

I like to think people who've set foot on the moon are able to see all we've done in space, all we're doing, all we're about to do, and see the moon landings as just one small but significant thing in context of the beadth of human achievement.

The ones I've spoken to lament the fact that no one has gone beyond low Earth orbit since 1972. They yearn to go out, and to learn on longer missions the things that are currently being learned on the #ISS, and more.

The ones I've spoken to think it's wrong that so much is being done within 400 km of the Earth's surface, when they went so much further.

The ones I've spoken to acknowledge that the #ISS is a wonderful thing, and that excellent work is being done. But it's clear that they think there's more to do, and we're not doing it.

Who are the ones you've spoken to?

Moon-walkers: Alan Bean and Charlie Duke.

Other Moon orbiters: Jim Lovell, Tom Stafford, Fred Haise, Al Worden, and Ken (TK) Mattingly.

Of those, I've had an extensive conversation with TK, moderate conversation with Jim Lovell and Fred Haise, some conversation with Alan Bean, and listened to talks and Q'n'A sessions with all of them.

Most were pretty moderate in the words they used, but in most cases you could hear between the spoken lines the frustration, and the yearning to see flights beyond LEO. In the longer, more personal conversations their feelings were obvious when the topic came up, supporting the impression obtained from the more moderate, public statements.

Wow, that's some esteemed company you're keeping.

>Is there any chance we'll have another person on the moon before these guys are gone.

Yes, but it probably won't be an American.

We only went to the moon to prove something to the Soviets, now the rest of the world has something to prove to the US.

China might be the next.


But 2036... I wonder why does it take so long?

The Apollo Program set a clear goal (“landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth”) and a clear timeline (“before this decade is out”). The US was strongly motivated to execute on this since it was losing the Space Race at the time.

Right now, no nation really has a clear goal (e.g. the US can’t even decide if it wants to send people back to the moon or go straight to Mars), a clear timeline (a manned mission to Mars is perpetually 20 years away for the US; a similar phenomenon also seems to be going on for anyone returning to the moon), or a clear motive. The US beat every other country to the moon by at least ~50 years, so all China doing a manned lunar mission proves at this point is that their technology and space capabilities are no more than 50 or 60 years behind the US’s. I think the US (either NASA or a private company) will be the first nation to land a person on Mars, although it might be a while before it happens; if at some point it looks like another nation is going to beat us, we might actually develop some motivation at that point.

They've basically got to replicate the Apollo program, and the head start they got by reusing Russian tech is less helpful as Russia itself was never able to put a man on the moon.

When you view the moon landings as a technological advance, it seems a bit sad that we've not progressed (for some value of "progressed") further in these original pioneers' lifetimes.

However if you view the moon landings as an exploratory advance, it's a small miracle that we're already talking of going back. Yes, the moon landings may be our modern-day Roanoke Colony, but look at what's come of that colony's original foray in the generations since!

I expect China about 2030. They are slow and methodical. Their stated priority is their third generation space station It will be six modules or a quarter of ISS. Perhaps they doing as visionairies suggested in the 1950s: get a decent space station before going to the Moon. In the long run it will be cheaper for multiple missions.

Hope so. Met and chatted with Al Worden while on a NASA tour a few years back. Really cool experience. (although was Apollo 15 command module pilot so went to the moon, didn't walk on it).

It looks like the trend is following the 50th percentile prediction that xkcd gave a few years ago.


I remember watching the STS-1 landing on TV. Young was supposed to stay inside for something like 45 minutes for overly-conservative safety reasons. He broke that rule, hard. He was out after after a few minutes, dancing around on the tarmac, fist-pumping the air (at the shuttle) out of sheer joy at having landed what he clearly thought was a wonderful flying machine. It was like watching a 5-year-old on Christmas morning.

He loved his job.

I just watched a Youtube video of the STS-1 landing. He definitely was a happy guy, but it was nearly after landing until he finally exited the shuttle.

Once I had the fortune to meet and be interviewed by John Young for a position. He was a pioneer in space travel and led humanity forward, yet he was most humble and self effacing in person. It has been many years, but that short period still stands out for his grace and kindness. May he rise in peace. And hope that humanity builds on his legacy to explore farther and faster.

A good book that includes a lot about John is "Into the Black" about the shuttle program. He was commander of STS-1 and was heavily involved in the program.

Obligatory xkcd:

65 years

Number of living humans who have walked on another world


Alt-text: The universe is probably littered with the one-planet graves of cultures which made the sensible economic decision that there's no good reason to go into space--each discovered, studied, and remembered by the ones who made the irrational decision

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