The space agency said in a statement that Young died Friday night following complications from pneumonia. The agency didn't say where he died.
Test pilot for the Navy, Young made the fastest climb from the ground on a F-4 Phantom II jet, before joining NASA.
He flew into space twice during Nasa's Gemini programme in the mid-1960s, twice on the Apollo lunar missions and twice on space shuttles in the 1980s.
"Nasa and the world have lost a pioneer", Robert Lightfoot, Nasa administrator, said in the statement.
We mourn the passing of astronaut John Young, who began his career with us in 1962, when he was selected from hundreds of young pilots for our second astronaut class.
Young's achievements were paired with a laconic style and a heartbeat that barely jumped after lift-off.
He also commissioned the first mission of the American Space Shuttle in 1981. "He was always questioning what we were doing and why we were doing it".
Unknown to Nasa, Mr Young smuggled a corned beef sandwich on board. The first flight was with Gus Grissom in Gemini 3, the first manned Gemini mission, on March 23, 1965. Young became one of only 12 astronauts to set foot on the moon.
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. Young remained in the command capsule as Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan descended in a lunar module to within 9 miles of the moon's surface. During that time, they performed rendezvous maneuvers with a pair of Agena target vehicles that were already in orbit. In the second trip, Young walked on the moon as part of Apollo 16 in 1972.
After his return to Earth, the shuttle would become Young's next focus.
"Earth's geologic history is pretty clear: It says, quite frankly, that single-planet species don't last", Young said, according to a 2004 Houston Chronicle story. He was on the first Gemini mission and he commanded the first shuttle flight. It was the first time Nasa put men on a vehicle's initial voyage, and the earliest manned spacecraft launched by solid rocket boosters.
Mr Young made his final trek into orbit aboard Columbia two years later, again as its skipper. He spent 13 years as chief of the astronaut corps, playing a major role in coordinating spaceflight training, scheduling and safety.
In his autobiography, he revealed that he felt responsible for the shuttle accidents of the Challenger (1986) and Columbia (2003).
Not many people argued with John Young. According to media reports, Young smuggled a corned beef sandwich in his spacesuit, a move that didn't sit well with NASA staff in Houston who anxious about the crumbs. A few weeks later in 1967 those wires contributed to the fire that killed Mr Grissom, Edward White II and Roger Chaffee in a countdown practice on their Cape Canaveral launch pad.
"Even today, approaching a half-century later, I swallow hard when I think back to the Apollo 1 fire and the deaths of our buddies", Young wrote in his memoir.
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