Launch Escape Suit

Astronaut John W. Young’s launch escape suit from the flight in the Columbia orbiter is on display in our Astronaut Gallery. The mission returned to Earth on April 14, 54 hours after launch and after orbiting 37 times.

The spacesuit was used in conjunction with the then-installed ejection seats for missions STS-1 (Space Transportation System) through STS-4. It allowed ejections during speeds up to Mach 2.7 and 80,000 feet (24.4 kilometers). The suit was derived from the U.S. Air Forces’ Model S1030 suit, worn by SR-71 pilots. The suit and ejection seat were not used after STS-4.

Not many astronauts have had a career like Young. Not many people, period, have enjoyed as much professional success as he has.

Young became the ninth person to walk on the moon during Apollo 16, and was the first to make six spaceflights from earth (seven times counting his lunar liftoff). He piloted four different classes of spacecraft: the Gemini, the Apollo command module, the Apollo lunar module and the space shuttle.

In 1965, Young flew on the first crewed Gemini mission and commanded another the next year. He was the first person to orbit the moon alone during Apollo 10, drove the lunar rover during Apollo 16 and served as chief of the Astronaut Office from 1974 to 1987.

He was the mission commander for STS-1, the first shuttle mission, in 1981. The mission was the only crewed maiden test flight of a new spacecraft system in U.S. history.

A U.S. Navy fighter- and test pilot before joining NASA in 1962, he retired from the Navy as a captain after 25 years of active service and from NASA after 42 years of active service.