Young is the only astronaut who took part in the Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle programmes.
He said Young, a former Navy test pilot, was special. "Astronaut John Young's storied career spanned three generations of spaceflight; we will stand on his shoulders as we look toward the next human frontier", NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said.
His Nasa career lasted 42 years, longer than any other astronaut's, and he was revered among his peers for his dogged dedication to keeping crews safe - and his outspokenness in challenging the space agency's status quo.
Fellow astronaut Terry Virts tweeted that Young's "passion for space will be missed". Young said later that launching the space shuttle always scared him more than it thrilled him because so much could go wrong.
He flew into space twice during NASA's Gemini program in the mid-1960s, twice on the Apollo lunar missions and twice on space shuttles in the 1980s.
In news interviews and testimony to the presidential commission that investigated the accident, he warned that space shuttles would continue to reveal defects. He was co-pilot on the first Gemini mission in 1965 and then commanded a Gemini flight the next year and orbited the moon on Apollo 10.
That mission in 1981 was the first time NASA sent a vehicle into space with people on board without a prior unmanned launch.
Young was born in San Francisco and grew up in Orlando. He also advised on engineering, operations and safety matters. He retired in 2004. He eventually became a Navy fighter and test pilot.
"To us, he represented the best in the American spirit - always looking forward, always reaching higher", the statement read. "May his memory serve to inspire future generations of explorers to dare greatly, act boldly, and serve selflessly".
Former President George H.W. Bush is offering condolences on the death of astronaut John Young.
From there, Young joined the Apollo program, where he was assigned to the Apollo 7 backup crew as the Command Module Pilot, along with astronauts Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan.
Dry weather Friday and Saturday, precipitation in Sunday's forecast
Saturday will be sunny, with a high near 25 and a northeast wind around 6 miles per hour , becoming southeast in the afternoon. In the evening, the area has a slight chance of rain and snow.