Veteran Astronaut Returns to Georgia Tech to Discuss the Future of the Space Program

Perhaps no other mission was as critical to the future of the space program as the first flight of a new type of space vehicle, the Space Shuttle. Columbia - the first off the production line of a planned fleet of reusable spaceships - was designed from the beginning as a key link in the exploration and development of the space frontier.

On April 12, 1981, Space Shuttle Columbia, a winged shuttle orbiter the size of a commercial jetliner, lifted off, launching modern space travel as we know it under the command of one of the world's most experienced space travelers, Astronaut John W. Young, AE '52.

Now, in the wake of the Feb. 1 Space Shuttle disaster, Columbia is again the link to new discussions on the future of the space program, as well as the international space station and efforts to build new spacecraft to supplement the shuttle.

What does the future hold for human space exploration? On Thursday, April 17, Capt. Young returns to Georgia Tech to talk about what he thinks the future holds. He is the keynote speaker for the Aerospace Engineering Distinguished Lecture Series, presented by the School of Aerospace Engineering and the William R. T. Oakes Endowment. The lecture begins at 11 a.m. in the Student Success Center.

With 835 hours logged in six space flights and the remarkable distinction of being one of 12 men to walk on the moon, Young is now Associate Director (Technical) at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC). He is responsible for technical, operational and safety oversight of all agency programs and activities assigned to JSC.

Young, 72, is the oldest astronaut currently working for NASA and is a highly sought-after speaker on the nation's space program. He made his first journey into space on Gemini 3, in 1965. He flew on Gemini 10, Apollo 10 and commanded Apollo 16, where he walked on the moon, and commanded the first Space Shuttle flight, STS-1, and the first Spacelab mission, STS-9.

Young earned a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering with the highest honors at Georgia Tech in 1952, then went on to enter the U.S. Navy where he excelled as a Navy fighter pilot and test pilot. In September 1962, he was named to the Astronaut Corp as one of the "New Nine", the second group of men to be selected to train as astronauts. Of that group, he was the first to be assigned to a mission.

His special assignment after being selected was to monitor the design and development of environmental control systems, survival gear, pressure suits, ejection seats, couches and other personal equipment. In less than three years he began the first of his six missions to come:

Gemini 3, March 23, 1965
Young's first flight was with Gus Grissom in Gemini 3, the first manned Gemini mission, on March 23, 1965. This was a complete end-to-end test of the Gemini spacecraft, during which Grissom accomplished the first manual change of orbit altitude and plane and the first lifting reentry, and Young operated the first computer on a manned spacecraft.

Gemini 10, July 18-21, 1966
With Young as Commander and Mike Collins as Pilot, the team completed a dual rendezvous with two separate Agena target vehicles. While Young flew close formation on the second Agena, Collins did an extravehicular transfer to retrieve a micro-meteorite detector from that Agena.

Apollo 10, May 18-26, 1969
On his third flight, Young was Command Module Pilot of Apollo 10. Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan were also on this mission, which orbited the Moon, completed a lunar rendezvous, and tracked proposed lunar landing sites.

Apollo 16, April 16-27, 1972
His fourth space flight was a lunar exploration mission, with Young as Spacecraft Commander, Ken Mattingly and Charlie Duke. Young and Duke set up scientific equipment and explored the lunar highlands at Descartes. They collected 200 pounds of rocks and drove over 16 miles in the lunar rover on three separate geology traverses.

Space Shuttle Columbia STS-1, April 12-14, 1981
Young's fifth flight was as Spacecraft Commander of STS-1, the first flight of the Space Shuttle, with Bob Crippen as Pilot. The 54-1/2 hour, 36-orbit mission verified Space Shuttle systems performance during launch, on orbit, and entry. Tests of the Orbiter Columbia included evaluation of mechanical systems including the payload bay doors, the attitude and maneuvering rocket thrusters, guidance and navigation systems, and Orbiter/crew compatibility. One hundred and thirty three of the mission's flight test objectives were accomplished. The Orbiter Columbia was the first manned spaceship tested during ascent, on orbit, and entry without benefit of previous unmanned missions. Columbia was also the first winged reentry vehicle to return from space to a runway landing. It weighed about 98 tons as Young landed it on the dry lakebed at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Spacelab STS-9, Nov. 28-Dec. 8, 1983
Young's sixth flight was as Spacecraft Commander of STS-9, the first Spacelab mission, with Pilot Brewster Shaw, Mission Specialists Bob Parker and Owen Garriott, and Payload Specialists Byron Lichtenberg of the USA and Ulf Merbold of West Germany. For ten days the 6-man crew worked 12-hour shifts around-the-clock, performing more than 70 experiments in the fields of atmospheric physics, Earth observations, space plasma physics, astronomy and solar physics, materials processing and life sciences. The mission returned more scientific and technical data than all the previous Apollo and Skylab missions put together. The Spacelab was brought back for re-use, so that Columbia weighed over 110 tons as Young landed the spaceship at Edwards Air Force Base, California.