John Young is perhaps the most well-traveled Orange County Public Schools alumnus of all time. A man of many firsts, Young’s flight experience as a naval aviator and astronaut spans five decades.
Born in San Francisco in 1930, the Great Depression forced Young’s family to move. They settled in Orlando when he was 18 months old; a historical marker now stands in the front yard of Young’s childhood home in College Park. He attended Princeton Elementary and graduated from Orlando High School, the current Howard Middle School, in 1948.
Young earned a bachelor’s degree with highest honors in Aeronautical Engineering from Georgia Tech in 1959, then entered the U.S. Navy. After serving aboard the destroyer USS Laws during the Korean War he entered flight training school, which would serve as the basis for the rest of his distinguished career.
As a record-setting test pilot, Young was selected to become an astronaut and joined NASA in 1962. He had the longest career of any astronaut, becoming the first person to make six space flights over the course of 42 years of active NASA service.
In 1963, John Young flew the first manned Gemini mission, during which he operated the first computer on a manned spacecraft. In 1966, he flew into space again on Gemini 10. On Apollo 10 in 1969, he orbited the moon, and in 1972 on Apollo 16 he became the ninth person to walk on the moon. During that mission, Young and fellow astronaut Charles Duke spent 71 hours on the lunar surface, including three moonwalks totaling more than 20 hours.
Young’s final two missions were aboard the Space Shuttle, including STS-1, the first flight of the shuttle in 1981, and again on STS-9 in 1983, which carried the first Spacelab module.
John Young served as Chief of the Astronaut Office from 1974 to1987 and then served in several advisory roles at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX, until his retirement in 2004 at age 74.
In Central Florida, State Road 423 is named John Young Parkway in his honor, and an OCPS elementary school also bears his name.