The Central Florida community paid tribute to the legacy of one the most decorated astronauts in NASA history and one of its own Thursday.
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John Young, an Orlando native, died Friday at his Houston home at the age of 87. He was NASA's longest serving astronaut with a career that spanned more than four decades.
The Naval aviator became a Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle astronaut. He piloted Gemini 3, the first manned mission of that program, and walked on the moon. In 1981, he commanded Columbia on the space shuttle program's maiden voyage to orbit.
Young was recognized with 80 major honors during his career, including the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. He also served as chief of the astronaut office.
"I called him Mr. Astronaut," fellow astronaut Jon McBride said. "... He was the spirit of the astronaut office."
Young was the first person to fly to space six times and made his hometown proud. A marker stands in front of his childhood home in the College Park area.
"An American hero," said Robert Cabana, a four-time shuttle crew member and current Kennedy Space Center director. "I learned so much from John."
He said Young was the "ultimate astronaut" who always had his colleagues' safety in mind.
"He would write these short, technical papers when there was an issue that needed addressing, or was a concern," Cabana said.
McBride got to work with Young during the early days of the shuttle program.
"He was inspirational to us, not only to myself, but just about everybody that ever met John Young," McBride said. "Every adjective you could think of that was positive, you could apply to John Young, because that’s the kind of guy he was."
The ceremony took place at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, right outside the Heroes and Legends attraction where Young and dozens of other fellow astronauts are enshrined. Inside, Young's plaque is highlighted, and a display showcases his distinguished career.
In 2005, Young spoke to Spectrum News 13 after the Historical Society of Central Florida established the John Young History Maker Award in his honor.
"I'm just lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time to grow up in Orlando, I guess," Young said then.
Kim Berner, visiting from Calgary, Alberta, drove down John Young Parkway in Orlando on her way to the KSC Visitor Complex to learn more about the legend.
"What I was most interested in is that he was the one everybody looked up to," Berner said.
Astronaut John Young spent more time with NASA than any other astronaut and has been a member of many of NASA's most famous missions. (NASA)