Astronaut Facts

An astronaut or cosmonaut is a person who goes into outer space. The Soviet Union and countries that it was friends with used the word cosmonaut. Western countries including the United States said astronaut. Astronauts are also called "taikonauts" in China or "spationaute" in France.
Remove these ads
  • An astronaut is a person who is training to travel in space. NASA is the agency that trains United States men and women to serve as commanders, pilots, and mission specialists aboard spacecraft. Politicians, educators, scientists, and private citizens have flown in space, also. The Soviet Union call their space travelers cosmonauts.
  • As of October 4, 2007, a total of 463 people from 34 countries have traveled into space. These numbers include 415 men and 48 women.
  • Yuri Gagarin, cosmonaut from the Soviet Union, was the first person to travel into space. His flight took place on April 12, 1961, aboard Vostok 1. John Glenn, astronaut from the United States, was the first American to orbit the earth. His flight occurred on February 20, 1962, aboard Friendship 7.
  • Alan Shepard was the second person and the first American to go into space. He did so May 5, 1961, aboard Freedom 7. He flew into space again in 1971, commanding the Apollo 14 mission to the moon (January 31-February 9, 1971).
  • On June 16, 1963, Colonel-Engineer Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova was a Soviet cosmonaut and the first woman in space. Sally Ride, astronaut from the United States, became the first American woman in space in 1983.
  • Neil Armstrong, astronaut for the United States, became the first person to walk on the moon. His moon walk took place on July 20, 1969. He traveled to the moon aboard Apollo 11.
  • Sergei Kirkalyov, cosmonaut from the Soviet Union, has spent the most time in space. He was aboard the space station for 2 years and 73 days.
  • Laika, a stray dog trained and chosen by the Russians for the expedition, became the first living being to go into space. He also became the first death. He died from overheating a few hours after the launch. Ham the Chimp was the first living American being that traveled into space. He was also called Astrochimp. On January 31, 1961, Ham was secured in a Project Mercury capsule. He had been trained to perform tasks while in the capsule, and he did everything he was asked to do. His flight lasted 16 minutes and 39 seconds. The capsule then splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean.
  • An Astronaut can be up to 2 inches taller returning from space. The cartilage disks in the spine expand in the absence of gravity.
  • Astronauts’ footprints and Lunar Rover tire tracks will stay on the Moon for millions of years. There is no wind to blow them away.