Washington, Jan 7: John Young, a legendary US astronaut, died of complications from pneumonia on Friday, NASA announced Saturday. He was 87. He lived in a Houston suburb just minutes from the NASA Space Center. Also Read - NASA Denounces China Over 'Irresponsible Standards' After its Rocket Disintegrates Over Indian Ocean

“We’re saddened by the loss of astronaut John Young, who was 87. Young flew twice to the Moon, walked on its surface & flew the first Space Shuttle mission. He went to space six times in the Gemini, Apollo & Space Shuttle programs,” NASA tweeted. He once held the world record for total time spent in space, NASA said. Also Read - Former Union Minister Ajit Singh Dies Of Covid, PM Modi Expresses Grief

Young was the only astronaut to have flown into space six times. He orbited the moon and even walked on its craggy surface. “NASA and the world have lost a pioneer,” agency administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement. “We will stand on his shoulders as we look toward the next human frontier.”

“Between his service in the U.S. Navy, where he retired at the rank of captain, and his later work as a civilian at NASA, John spent his entire life in service to our country.  His career included the test pilot’s dream of two ‘first flights’ in a new spacecraft — with Gus Grissom on Gemini 3, and as Commander of STS-1, the first space shuttle mission, which some have called ‘the boldest test flight in history’,” Lightfoot added in his statement.

Remembering Young, Lightfood further said, “I participated in many Space Shuttle Flight Readiness Reviews with John, and will always remember him as the classic ‘hell of an engineer’ from Georgia Tech, who had an uncanny ability to cut to the heart of a technical issue by posing the perfect question — followed by his iconic phrase, ‘Just asking…’

John Young was at the forefront of human space exploration with his poise, talent, and tenacity.  “He was in every way the ‘astronaut’s astronaut.’ We will miss him,” NASA said.

According to Young’s website, while in the navy, he had set world records for the fastest ascension from a standing start in an F-4 Phantom II jet.

Astronaut Charles Bolden remembers Young and Robert “Hoot” Gibson as the two best pilots he had ever known. “Everyone else gets into an airplane; John and Hoot wear their airplane. They’re just awesome,” an AFP report quotes him as saying.