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John Young — Astronaut, Moonwalker, and Roadway Namesake, Dead at 87

Astronaut John W. Young, April 1969. By NASA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
According to news broken by NASA, Astronaut John Young died on Friday at the age of 87.

Young, who started out as a U.S. Navy test pilot and achieved the rank of Captain, joined NASA in 1962 after a 10-year Navy career.

Young served in missions Gemini 3 and Gemini 10, Apollo 10 and Apollo 16.  In 1972, as part of Apollo 16, he became the 9th person ever to walk on the Moon.  To date, only 12 have ever walked on the moon.

John Young walking on the Moon during the Apollo 1 mission in 1972. By Charlie Duke (NASA) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Young served on the Space Shuttle Columbia twice, including the Space Shuttle program’s very first mission on April 12, 1981.

Space Shuttle Columbia on its very first launch on April 12, 1981. By NASA (Great Images in NASA (image link)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
He continued to work for NASA in more behind-the-scenes roles until his retirement in 2004.

Orlando Ties

John Young was born in San Francisco, California in 1930, before moving to Orlando, Florida as a toddler.

Young continued to live in Orlando through his school years.  His ties to the Orlando area resumed when he was part of NASA at nearby Kennedy Space Center.

John Young Elementary School was named in his honor in 1989.

John Young Parkway

In addition to other honors Young has achieved, there’s another key distinction tied to him

Almost anyone driving in Orlando has run across John Young Parkway at one time or another.  Many have wondered who is John Young?

This 24-mile stretch of road from Kissimmee to the Lake Fairview section of Orlando was named after the astronaut.  The first section of John Young Parkway was built in 1971, from Lake Fairview to State Road 50.

As an extension of Lee Road it was considered at the time to be a four-lane road to nowhere in then rural northwest Orlando.

The roadway was extended in the 1990s.  One extension was from State Road 50 to the Osceola County line, with the exception of a gap near Clear Lake.  The Clear Lake gap was filled in in the late 1990s  A second extension linked where the parkway ended at the Osceola-Orange line to the intersection of Bermuda Avenue and US Highway 192 in Kissimmee.

Northbound John Young Parkway near Kissimmee. By Michael Rivera (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By the late 1990s, the entire 24-mile stretch was in place.

The parkway was once seen as unnecessary and a thoroughfare that broke apart established communities.  Over time, it has proven to be an effective north-south alternative to adjacent Orange Blossom Trail.  A key corridor for the Orlando-Kissimmee area.

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