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Millenium of Flight Festival

Edinburgh, Scotland
July 4, 2000

John Young shows off a glove from the Gemini mission at the opening of the Edinburgh exhibition of space memorabilia.
Pictures: Neil Hanna

Veteran astronaut yearns for new mission
©Scotsman Publications Ltd.
Reproduced by permission of - the website of The Scotsman newspaper
Edinburgh, Scotland
Originally published July 2000

ONE of the world’s greatest astronauts touched down in Edinburgh yesterday and revealed that he yearns to go back into space at the age of 69 - but his wife won’t let him.

John Young, the veteran of a record six space flights including Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle missions, was in the capital to unveil a display of memorabilia from the NASA space exploration programme at the National Museums of Scotland.

He said he would love to follow his colleague John Glenn who returned to space in 1998 at the age of 77.

Although the risks of space travel had reduced it was still 100 times more dangerous than flying combat missions in Desert Storm, said Mr Young, who is still considered an active astronaut and eligible to command shuttle missions.

"We are really looking for brave men and women to fly our machines, and we get them. And once you get up there and start looking around, it’s worth it," he said.

"I would like to go back to space but my wife, Susy, is not happy about it."

Mr Young, the ninth man to walk on the moon, said: "Human space exploration is just beginning and I believe it will be incredibly productive in this century. But we’ve still got to learn a great deal."

He said a space mission to Mars was possible within ten years, provided the political will was there to make it happen.

"We are very ignorant about our place in the solar system," he said. "Just because you put 12 people on the moon for 80 hours in pressure suits it does mean you know anything about the moon."

The astronaut began his space career in 1962 and in 1965 he became the first man to use a computer in space, on the Gemini 3 mission.

His fourth flight on Apollo 16 touched down on the moon in 1972 and he was one of three crew who drove more than 16 miles across the surface collecting 200 lbs of lunar rocks.

His fifth flight was as spacecraft commander of the first flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia, which in 1981 became the first winged re-entry vehicle to return from space to a runway landing.

His final flight was as commander of the first Spacelab mission where a six-man crew performed more than 70 experiments in physics.

In recognition of his contribution to space travel, the Museum of Flight at East Fortune, which holds the largest collection of space memorabilia in the UK, presented the astronaut with two copies of The Scotsman from 1965 and 1981, when his successful missions made front page news.

In return, Mr Young presented two photographs of Scotland taken on previous NASA missions to the Museum of Flight and to the Scottish parliament. He joked: "I’ve got some great pictures of Scotland, and it wasn’t even cloudy."

The temporary exhibition features artefacts from the NASA space programmes including space food, an astronaut’s gloves, part of a space suit with its internal cooling system and a fragment of the Gemini space shield.

Last night, he was to deliver a sell-out 45-minute lecture at the Royal Museum of Scotland to mark the Millennium Festival of Flight. The audience included people who had flown from the US to hear him speak and the event was teleconferenced to Shetland and Glasgow and broadcast live on the internet.

Adam Smith, curator of the Museum of Flight, said it was a great honour to have the astronaut in Edinburgh. "He has been involved with NASA for 38 consecutive years. No-one else has had more space flights than him," he said.

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