Retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield echoed that on Twitter, saying "John Young is one of my heroes, an astronaut's astronaut, a fearless individual and a good friend".
The US agency said on Saturday that the former astronaut's death was due to complications following pneumonia.
Retired NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong, left, retired astronaut Capt. Eugene Cernan, center, and retired astronaut John Young, appear on Capitol Hill May 26, 2010, in Washington, D.C. "Astronaut John Young's storied career spanned three generations of spaceflight", NASA administrator acting Robert Lightfoot said in an emailed statement Saturday.
He flew into space six times during his 42 year career at NASA, including two trips to the moon. "John Young was at the forefront of human space exploration with his poise, talent, and tenacity". "He was in every way the 'astronaut's astronaut.' We will miss him".
United States astronaut John Young dies aged 87
Born in San Francisco in 1930, Young gained a degree in aeronautical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and then served in the US Navy as a test pilot. As a child, his favorite hobby was building model airplanes. Then, after hearing President Kennedy's proposal in 1961 to land a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth, he chose to take his love of flying even further. He flew on the first manned flight of the Gemini spacecraft in 1965 (and led a flight in 1966), traveled to the Moon twice (including a moonwalk during Apollo 16) and played a key role in the rescue of Apollo 13 by helping to stretch out its resources. Young flew two Gemini, two Apollo and two shuttle missions and considered the first shuttle flight the most unsafe.
Counting his takeoff from the moon in 1972 as commander of Apollo 16, Young's blastoff tally stood at seven, for decades a world record.
"The Moon is a very nice place", he had said. Young was also on the first Space Shuttle mission in 1981.
When asked what moment in his career was most memorable at his retirement from NASA in 2004, he replied, "I liked them all".More news: United flight diverted to Alaska after man spreads feces in lavatories