He eventually became one of the most accomplished astronauts in the history of the United States space programme.
In 1972, Young went on to command Apollo 16, and apparently all his experience hadn't made him blasé about space travel.
Once, during an air-to-air missile test, Young and another pilot approached each other's aircraft at a potentially calamitous speed of Mach 3 (2,300 miles per hour, or 3,700 kilometers per hour), according to Young's website. He lived in a Houston suburb just minutes from the NASA Space Center.
Chaikin says Young's NASA career up to that point - culminating with a moon landing - had been impressive.
Saddened for the loss of former astronaut colleague John Young - the astronauts' astronaut, a true legend.
US Astronaut who walked on the moon dies aged 87
That mission in 1981 was the first time NASA sent a vehicle into space with people on board without a prior unmanned launch.
Young was the only astronaut to have flown into space six times. But he was also described as a savvy engineer and a "test pilot's test pilot".
"I got a telegram from the chief of naval operations", Young said in his understated way, "asking me not to do anymore".
Young avoided the limelight but was outspoken and known for writing hundreds of memos pointing out safety flaws and operational concerns. He wrestled with how the agency could have missed the warning signs. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure this out. "We will stand on his shoulders as we look toward the next human frontier".
"Never met two people like them", he said.
"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".
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