Spaceflight Insider

NG-10 Cygnus mission named in honor of Apollo 16’s John Young

S S John Young Northrop Grumman Cygnus Spacecraft Antares Rocket image credit David Collins SpaceFlight Insider

Northrop Grumman has named the NG-10 Cygnus spacecraft in honor of Gemini and Apollo astronaut John Young. Image Credit: David Collins / SpaceFlight Insider

He flew to orbit six times, two of those flights saw him venture to the Moon. Now, the name of John Young will ride to space once again, gracing Northrop Grumman’s NG-10E Cygnus spacecraft which is currently slated to fly to the International Space Station on November 15.

The NG-10E mission is slated to be the latest voyage for one of the cargo vessels to the space station. When it flies, the S.S. John Young will carry an estimated 7,720–8,270 lbs. (3,500–3,750 kg) worth of cargo, crew supplies and experiments to the orbiting lab. 

Northrop Grumman announced the selection of the name for the spacecraft on a October 24 Twitter post. 

When it flies, the S.S. John Young will be launched atop Northrop Grumman’s Antares 230 rocket from Pad 0A (LP-0A) located at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

One of the founding fathers of NASA’s Astronaut Corps

John Young was one of only 12 men who have walked the surface of the Moon to date. His first mission after being selected as an astronaut in 1962, however, was only to low-Earth orbit. Gemini 3 was the first flight under NASA’s Gemini Program. Young was partnered with veteran Mercury astronaut Gus Grissom on the mission. In the intervening years, Gemini 3 has become perhaps best known for Young secretly stashing a corn beef sandwich from Wolfie’s Restaurant and Sandwich Shop (per the Smithsonian) and handing it to his commander in-flight – rather than the importance of the test flight itself.

While Young’s minor act of rebellion might have not played very well with Congress, it didn’t impede his progress in America’s emerging space program (as was noted by the A.V. Club’s William Highes). Young again took to the skies atop a Titan II rocket in the summer of 1966 on Gemini 10. The mission demonstrated that radiation at high altitudes shouldn’t be a problem for future flights. However, Gemini 10’s primary objectives focused on the procedures required for NASA’s voyage to the Moon – rendezvous, docking and extra-vehicular activity (EVA).

Less than three years later Young was orbiting the Moon with fellow Apollo 10 crew members Eugene Cernan and Thomas Stafford. The flight saw Cernan and Stafford take the Apollo 10 Lunar Module, Snoopy, within 8.4 nautical miles (15.6 km) above the lunar surface. Young remained aboard the mission’s command module, Charlie Brown. The crew of Apollo 10 made it possible for Neil Amrstrong and Buzz Aldrin to set foot on the Moon two months later in July of 1969.

Young’s space exploration days were just starting, with his most prestigious mission, Apollo 16, taking place in 1972. The roughly 11-day long mission saw Young and Lunar Module Pilot Charles Duke successfully complete the fifth mission to the Moon’s surface. When Young lifted off from the Moon’s Descartes Highlands and journeyed back to Earth – his days on orbit still weren’t over.

Young, along with Robert Crippen successfully carried out STS-1 the first test flight of one of NASA’s Shuttle orbiters on board Columbia in April of 1981. After spending two days on orbit and demonstrating the viability of the new spacecraft, the pair safely landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Young would serve as commander of one final mission, STS-9 (again on Columbia) in 1983.

Young held a variety of roles with the U.S. space agency before retiring from NASA on December 31, 2004, at the age of 74. In total Young spent 42 years with the agency and still attended meetings at NASA’s Johnson Space Center for several years after his retirement. This past January (2018), Young passed away at the age of 87.

The first Cygnus flight to the ISS took place in September of 2013. Since the first flight of the duo, Orbital Sciences (now Northrop Grumman) has named each vehicle after either someone pivotal to the company’s operations or in honor of an astronaut.

“John was one of that group of early space pioneers whose bravery and commitment sparked our nation’s first great achievements in space. But, not content with that, his hands-on contributions continued long after the last of his six spaceflights — a world record at the time of his retirement from the cockpit,” the former Acting Administrator of NASA, Robert Lightfoot said in a agency-issued statement released on January 6, 2018.





Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

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