Announcing his death on 6 January, NASA administrator Robert Lightfoot said: "NASA and the world have lost a pioneer".
Young was born September 24, 1930, in San Francisco. Afterward, he was assigned to the Naval Air Test Center for three years where his test projects included evaluations of the Crusader and Phantom fighter weapons systems and where he served as maintenance officer of Phantom Fighter Squadron (VFA) 143.
He became an astronaut in 1962, earning the distinction of being "the first person to fly in space six times from earth, and seven times counting his lunar liftoff", the biography said.
Young, who grew up in Orlando, was the agency's only astronaut to pilot four different spacecraft: Gemini, two Apollo modules and the space shuttle.
In 1969, Young was the commander of the Apollo 10 flight to the Moon, a preparation flight for the eventual Apollo 11 Moon landing several months later.
He flew on the first manned Gemini mission and later walked on the moon during Apollo 16. Young and Duke set up scientific equipment and explored the lunar highlands at Descartes.
In 1981, meanwhile, he commanded the first space shuttle flight.
His last spaceflight in 1983 ended dramatically, with Columbia catching fire due to a propellant leak.
"It would be hard to overstate the impact that John Young had on human space flight", noted Johnson Space Center Director and former astronaut Ellen Ochoa.
Young worked behind the scenes to mitigate the risk to future astronauts. "He had our backs".
NASA notes that Young, who retired from the Navy as a captain in 1976, and from NASA in 2004, received more than 80 awards and honors including the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, three NASA Distinguished Service Medals, the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, two Navy Distinguished Service Medals, three Navy Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Georgia Tech Distinguished Young Alumni Award, the Exceptional Engineering Achievement Award, and the American Astronautical Society Space Flight Award.
He also held four honorary doctorate degrees, and in 1988 was an inductee of the National Aviation Hall of Fame.