April 12, 1981: The alarm went off at 6am. Its mission: wake me up so I could watch television coverage of the first Space Shuttle launch (STS-1).
The shuttle's successful mission proved the system was technically viable. John Young and Robert Crippen piloted the machine for its 37 orbit flight, and at the time, their names were known to much of the public.
Young had by that point flown into space several times: On Gemini (3 and 10); and Apollo (10 and 16). He was not originally scheduled to crew the first manned Gemini flight, but after star astronaut Alan Shepard was grounded with a medical condition, and ended up so for a few years, Young was bumped up with fellow crew member Gus Grissom to take on the mission. With the Apollo program he flew twice to the moon, walking on its surface during the second flight (the first was lunar orbit only). In addition to STS-1 the human odometer piloted STS-9.
Those are a lot of leaps and miles.
John W. Young was and is an American star.