Why John Young?
"He had the right stuff before we even had a name for it."
"I'm not through looking for life in our solar
- John Young, "For All Mankind"
Shortly after I started this site in 1996, a visitor
asked why I had chosen John Young
over all the other astronauts. That's a valid
question; all of the astronauts are heroes. Why should I single out just
"...no space explorer can equal, or is likely to
surpass John Young's
remarkable - and strangely unsung - series of
- Michael Dean
Photo taken October 14, 1999
I chose John Young for several reasons - one is his
impressive career. It's been a career of "firsts" and
records. While other astronauts may have launched
from the Earth as many times or spent more hours on orbit,
there is no other astronaut who can quite match the experience
Captain Young has acquired through the
Gemini, Apollo and STS projects.
"One of the worst dirty words is can't."
John Young, Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, April, 1979
Another reason that I admire Captain Young
is his dedication to what he does. I've always admired
people who "give it
110%". I think he definitely fits into that category.
While all the other
early astronauts were leaving NASA,
Captain Young has stayed with it, serving in whatever capacity needed.
"I don't think I've ever known
anyone else whom I've ever met (who) I
felt could do anything he set his mind to do, like
- Art Ross, a high school and college friend
(Atlanta Journal, 4-6-81)
I like his outspokenness when he
believes he's right, the no-fear approach to saying
what needs to be
done and his courage in trying to implement those
Echoing a reporter's question:
"Daring and courage? I hope you don't need any daring and courage because I don't have
any of that."
- John Young, Philadephia Daily News, 4-10-81
I admire his modesty - the "I'm just doing my job"
yet to come across anyone who has met him who hasn't
really down-to-earth," or "He's really a nice man." A
sampling of descriptions of Capt. Young that I've been
- "the nicest of all", from a current astronaut,
- "a very special person" from a colleague of 35 years, and
- "an extraordinary man" from many people, including one of the
NASA commissioned artists.
"...John Young is one of the most
remarkable men I've ever met...his contempt
for fame and the glittering prizes that accompany it is not an ultimately
sophisticated act of denial, but the canny
insight of a simple man who knows his strength resides in staying ordinary at whatever
- Michael Dean
And, of course, he has a wonderful sense of
"It's kind of hard to tell distances on the Moon. You
know why? Because
there aren't any telephone poles up there yet."
- John Young
Yet another reason I admire Captain Young is the
excitement he still has for the space program and
I've had the opportunity to hear him speak on multiple occasions
- and every time I learn something new.
Not only have I come away from each
speech a little more knowledgeable, I've also
come away feeling
that I can accomplish anything if I work hard enough.
The people at the Mars Society labeled his talk as
"entertaining and inspirational"; I can't think of a
better description. After almost 40 years in the space program, the
excitement and dedication
"His comment after landing the first shuttle mission - 'The dream is alive' -
is a testament to the foundation Young continues to build for America's
future in space."
- Aviation Week, 4-13-98
One of my favorite stories about Capt. Young illustrates why I consider him
to be a hero. According to an article in the British
one of Young's former professors at Georgia
Tech filed a petition to change a D grade that Young
had received in an
engineering class (applied mechanics) into an A. The
professor stated that Young's success
in the space
program was proof that he understood the subject.
Upon learning of the
petition to change the grade, Capt. Young wrote to his
asking him not to change the grade, and stating that,
"...I can assure
you that the D grade was earned fair and square...."
Astronaut John Young learned, on his return from the moon, that a Georgia Tech
professor had petitioned the university to erase a D he had given Young some 20
years ago and to replace it with an A, since the astronaut-to-be had had excellent
grades otherwise. Young wrote to the professor: "Thank you for the Mech 302 grade-change
consideration. Unfortunately, I can assure you that the D grade was earned fair and
square. Therefore I would appreciate it if you would let the grade remain a D. It would
grieve me considerably to think that Georgia Tech was getting soft or that Tech
professors ever made 'errors in judgment' that they would admit to anyone. After all,
Georgia Tech is an outstanding--but tough--engineering institute. Yours for keeping it
that way. Warm regards, John Young."
Hugh Park, Atlanta Journal
If nothing else, this story is illustrative of John
(how many people would refuse to have a D changed to
an A on their
transcript?!); but, at least to me, it goes beyond
that. After hearing
the story, most people's reaction is "well, that just
proves he's human."
Yes, it proves he's human; but, more than that, the
illustrates a quality of
perseverance in Capt. Young, a quality which is critical
to success in any endeavor - it shows that
one defeat doesn't mean total failure. Many times,
and professionally, I've used this story as motivation
to "try again."
"[He] shows with great passion what spaceflight is really about (the
development of our species as better beings)...Mr Young has given me alot
to think about in where I am going and what I
can achieve. If you ever get the chance to listen to John Young anywhere..........GO
Most of all, I admire John Young because he has vision, not only for the
space program, but for the human race as well. Vision
took the human race to the
Moon, vision will take us to Mars and beyond - and
vision is what it will take
to ensure the survival of the inhabitants of this
"Only one conclusion can be reached, and it is inescapable for anyone who thinks and
Twentieth century man must boldly reach out...and purposefully strive to discover
the hidden secrets of our universe."
- John Young speaking before Congress after Apollo 16, 1972
After I got to meet Captain Young, several people asked
if he measured up to the hero status I've given him. The
meeting may have been brief, but it was long enough for me
to be able to answer that question: Captain Young is more
my hero now than he was before I met him.
Shortly after the first space shuttle mission, I saw
Capt. Young on a talk show; during that interview, he
was asked about the media coverage and "fame" that was
part of the STS-1 mission. Capt. Young made a comment
to the effect that there would be "15 minutes of fame"
and then the public would lose interest and he would be
forgotten. I wrote a letter to Capt. Young after that
television program, telling him that what he (and Crippen)
had done would not be forgotten and that I would
always consider him a hero.
So, almost 20 years later, I've created this web site -
partially to back up what I said and
partially to educate the world about one of our most
outstanding pioneers in space.
John Young and Dr. Jerry Burson
"I think we're doing 10 percent of what we're capable of doing... We
could do anything we want in this
country in a heartbeat."
- John Young