He eventually became one of the most accomplished astronauts in the history of the USA space programme.
Space agency Nasa said he died on Friday at home in Houston following complications from pneumonia.
"NASA and the world have lost a pioneer".
In a statement, acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said that Young was one of the "early space pioneers whose bravery and commitment sparked our nation's first great achievements in space", who spent his entire life in the service to his country, and that he was "in every way the 'astronaut's astronaut'".
Throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, Mr Young maintained Nasa should be developing massive rockets to lift payloads to the moon to industrialise it, he said, and building space systems for detecting and deflecting comets or asteroids that could threaten Earth.
Astronaut John Young, a graduate of Orlando High School, died Saturday at 87, according to NASA.
Young's first time in space came in 1965 with the Gemini 3 mission that took him and astronaut Gus Grissom into Earth orbit in the first two-person U.S. space jaunt. He was the ninth person to walk on the moon. He retired in 2004.
John Young Parkway is named after the legendary astronaut. Three years later he was selected as a NASA astronaut.
Young was the first of his group to fly in space: He and Mercury astronaut Gus Grissom made the first manned Gemini mission in 1965. This was a complete end-to-end test of the Gemini spacecraft, during which Gus accomplished the first manual change of orbit altitude and plane and the first lifting reentry, and Young operated the first computer on a manned spacecraft. During that time, they performed rendezvous maneuvers with a pair of Agena target vehicles that were already in orbit.
Young returned to space on July 18th 1966 as the Command Pilot for Gemini 10, along with future Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins. Young and his crew undertook each aspect of that subsequent mission except for an actual moon landing. Counting his takeoff from the moon in 1972 as commander of Apollo 16, his blastoff tally stood at seven, for decades a world record. Young and Duke set up scientific equipment and explored the lunar highlands at Descartes. One hundred and thirty three of the mission's flight test objectives were accomplished. He was scheduled to fly for a seventh time to launch the Hubble Space Telescope in 1986, only to have that mission scrubbed following the loss of Space Shuttle Challenger. It weighed about 98 tons as Young landed it on the dry lakebed at Edwards Air Force Base, California. During the flight, as they discussed the food provided for the mission, Young handed Grissom the sandwich.
Throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, Young maintained the United States should be doing two to three times the amount of space exploration that it was doing.
Over the course of his career he flew into space six times in the Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle programs.
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