Interesting Facts About Astronauts
For about sixty years there have been astronauts. They have traveled in ships, stayed on space stations, and even walked on the moon. When you think about them, you might think of their special spacesuits or picture them floating around in their spaceships, but that is not all there is to it. There is a lot more to being an astronaut than just putting on a suit and flying in space.
The truth is astronauts go through a lot of tests and training. They also have to deal with unusual things happening all the time. Whether you want to be an astronaut one day or are just curious about space, there are a lot of fun things about astronauts and astronaut training to explore. Here are some interesting and educational facts you may not have heard before about specific astronauts and astronauts in general.
What is an Astronaut Really?
An astronaut is sometimes thought of as anyone in a space program. However, in some countries, to really be an astronaut a person has to actually fly in space. In fact, the rule in the United States is a person has to go at least 50 miles up from sea level to be an astronaut. Even though that is the official rule, people training to fly in space are also usually called astronauts.
Astronauts Versus Cosmonauts
If you have ever heard of a cosmonaut, you might wonder what the difference is between cosmonauts and astronauts. It might surprise you to find out there really isn’t much of a difference at all except for where they train. The word “cosmonaut” is just what an astronaut in the Russian space program is called. Here are some famous cosmonaut facts:
- Yuri Gagarin was the first person on Earth to launch into space when he took off in 1961.
- The first woman anywhere in the world to go into space was cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova in 1962.
- The first untrained guest space traveler in the world was Vladimir Remek, who went to space as part of the Russian cosmonaut program in 1978.
Famous Female Astronauts
It might surprise you to know there have been a lot of famous female astronauts besides Valentina Tereshkova. Although, she famously went into space long before any other female. Here are some other famous females who took flight since:
- Sally Ride became the first U.S. woman in space in 1983, 20 years after Valentina.
- Christa McAuliffe is a now-famous civilian teacher who got the opportunity to go into space in 1986, but she died during the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger.
- Dr. Mae Jemison became the first African American woman in space in 1992.
- Ellen Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman in space in 1993.
Astronauts of All Ages (Almost)
There is no age rule for being an astronaut in the United States. However, some programs do have age limits. An astronaut in the European Space Agency’s program has to be 50 or younger. Even though there is no age limit in the United States, astronauts still have to pass a lot of tests to make sure they are healthy enough to fly. So far, the ages of accepted astronauts in the United States have ranged from 25 to 77.
Keep Finding Fun Astronaut Facts
There is a never-ending list of fun facts about astronauts. Some are so weird it is hard to believe them, but they are true. Most of those facts are about how astronauts survive in space and the habits they have. For instance, there are no showers or bathtubs on spaceships. Astronauts use shampoo they leave in their hair and pouches or squirt guns with water to clean up. Other facts have to do with how space changes their bodies, like the fact that astronauts get a couple of inches taller in space. If you love astronauts, you can never run out of things to learn about them, so keep studying.