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Sunday, 25 September 2011



Yuri Gagarin was the first human in space aboard the spacecraft Vostok 1. Gagarin was born in the Smolensk region of the Soviet Union. He became a pilot in 1957 and on April 12, 1961 completed one orbit of the Earth, taking 108 minutes from launch to landing.

Yuri Gagarin

Yuri Gagarin sarcastically commented that upon reaching outer space he failed to see God. 

The word astronaut is derived from the Greek words ástron (star) and nautes (sailor). It was first used in 1929 and gained popular acceptance after the first manned space flight by Major Yuri Gagarin of the USSR on April 12, 1961.

Rear Admiral Alan Shepard was the first American to travel into outer space. On May 5, 1961, Shepard was launched, on a sub-orbital flight in Mercury-Redstone 3, reaching an altitude of 101.2 nautical miles (187.5 kilometers). Shepard's mission was a 15-minute suborbital flight with the primary objective of demonstrating his ability to withstand the high g forces of launch and atmospheric re-entry.

Screen grab of Alan Shepard from the NASA film "Freedom 7".

Astronaut John Glenn (July 18, 1921 – December 8, 2016) became the first American to orbit the earth, making three orbits in 4 hours, 55 minutes abroad Friendship 7 in 1962.

During the same trip, Glenn had the first meal in space when he ate pureed applesauce squeezed from a tube.

On June 16, 1963, Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space. Tereshkova , the daughter of a Soviet war hero, was a factory worker who was obsessed with skydiving. Her skills at this risky sport bought the youngster to the attention of the authorities, and she was inducted into the Soviet Air Force so that she could become a cosmonaut.

Valentina Tereshkova orbited the Earth 48 times aboard Vostok 6 on June 16, 1963. She is still the only woman ever to go on a solo space mission.

Valentina Tereshkova pictured as a Major of the Soviet Air Forces. By RIA Novosti archive, image #612748

Astronaut L. Gordon Cooper was so relaxed on the morning of his launch into space in May 1963 that he fell asleep in his space capsule while waiting for blastoff.

Alexei Leonov, a Russian cosmonaut, became the first person to walk in space on March 18, 1965. 
Leonov was tethered to the airlock with a 5m-long “umbilical cord” that prevented him from drifting into space. When Leonov got the instruction to come back inside the spacecraft, he had been outside for ten minutes. He said: "My feeling was that I was a grain of sand."

Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov was the first human to die during a spaceflight when the Soyuz 1 space capsule crashed after re-entry on April 24, 1967. The module's drogue and main braking parachute failed to deploy correctly.

Soviet Union-1964-stamp-Vladimir Mikhailovich Komarov

The farthest distance from Earth an astronaut has traveled was 401,056 km (249,205 mi), when Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise went around the Moon during the Apollo 13 emergency.

The Apollo 15 astronauts left a 3 inch "fallen astronaut" statuette on the surface of the moon in 1971 to commemorate all the men and women who died in pursuit of space travel. 

Back from the Moon, Apollo astronauts had to go through customs and declare moon rock as cargo.

On December 14, 1972, astronaut Gene Cernan entered the Lunar Module just behind crewmate Harrison Schmidt for their return trip back to Earth on board Apollo 17. He was the last of 12 men ever to have stood on the Moon.

Gene Cernan at the beginning of EVA 3

Czech Vladimír Remek became the first non-Russian or non-American to go into space, when he was launched aboard Soyuz 28 on March 2, 1978.

Dr. Sally K. Ride (May 26, 1951 – July 23, 2012) became the first American woman to be sent into space when she was selected to serve on a six- day flight of the orbiter Challenger in 1983. At the time, she was the youngest American to enter outer space.

The first African American to travel in space was U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Guion S. Bluford. He participated in four Space Shuttle flights between 1983 and 1992, beginning on August 30, 1983.

Astronaut Kathryn D. Sullivan was the first American woman to walk in space when she took a stroll on October 11, 1984,

The first Muslim person in space was Royal Saudi Air Force pilot Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in 1985 aboard the United States shuttle Discovery

Roughly 40 per cent of astronauts get space sickness during their first few days in space. The condition is jokingly measured as a ‘Garn’, after Jake Garn, a U.S. senator who joined the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1985. He was so severely ill that a scale for sickness was created based on him, with ‘one Garn’ the highest possible level.

In 1986 the New Hampshire schoolteacher, Christa McAuliffe,became the first ordinary citizen in space. Sadly she died with six crew members when the space shuttle Challenger exploded.

Mae Jemison, the first female African-American astronaut, flew her only space mission from September 12 to 20, 1992, as a Mission Specialist on STS-47, a cooperative mission between the United States and Japan, as well as the 50th shuttle mission. 

Dr. Mae C. Jemison 

Jemison was inspired to apply to NASA by the Star Trek character, Lieutenant Uhura. She later went on to make a cameo appearance in Star Trek: The Next Generation, becoming the first real astronaut to appear in the series.

Cosmonaut Valeriy Polyakov returned to Earth on March 22, 1995 after setting a record of 438 days in space. He spent his days aboard the Mir space station conducting experiments and performing scientific research. It was revealed that Polyakov did not suffer from any prolonged performance impairments as a result of his long period in space. 

Polyakov looks out Mir's window during rendezvous operations with the Space Shuttle Discovery

When Space Shuttle Discovery blasted off on October 29, 1998 with 77-year old John Glenn on board, he became the oldest person to go into space.

John Glenn

Italian American engineer and multimillionaire Dennis Tito became the first space tourist when in mid-2001, he spent nearly eight days in orbit as a crew member of ISS EP-1, a visiting mission to the International Space Station.

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield made history when he recorded "Jewel in the Night" whilst orbiting the Earth on the International Space Station - it was the first ever song to be recorded in outer space. Recording conditions evidently weren't perfect as when the folksy tune was uploaded onto YouTube on December 24, 2012. The crooning spaceman warned us we "might hear the slight buzz of the station's fans in the background."


Astronauts come from America – Space explorers from Russia are called "cosmonauts."

All NASA astronauts must learn how to speak Russian, and all cosmonauts must learn how to speak English.

When Hilary Clinton was young, she wrote to NASA to ask if she could become an astronaut. They wrote a very polite letter back saying they didn’t take girls.

Astronauts don't do laundry but rather eject their clothes into space to burn up in the atmosphere.

According to NASA, the top three items most missed by astronauts on space flights are ice-cream, pizza and fizzy drinks.

Astronauts are not allowed to eat beans before they go into space because passing wind in a spacesuit damages them.

Playtex, a company that is now known for women's undergarments and feminine products, created the Apollo spacesuits.

In space, astronauts cannot cry, because there is no gravity, so the tears can't flow.

Since weightlessness causes the spine to expand and straighten, astronauts may measure two or three inches taller in space than they do on Earth.

More than half of U.S. astronauts report back pain during their mission, since their back muscles weaken due to weightlessness.

NASA estimates that during his year on the International Space Station, Scott Kelly drank about 193 gallons of filtered bodily waste.

NASA paid volunteers $18,000 to lie in bed to study the effect on astronauts of being in space.

Astronauts have the highest job mortality rate at 7.5%.

The notion that NASA astronauts carry suicide pills for use in case they are marooned in outer space is untrue. Exposure to outer space results in a much faster and smoother demise compared to a suicide pill.

Want to apply to be a NASA astronaut? All you need are advanced degrees in biology, science, or mathematics and 1000 hours of jet piloting.

To become an astronaut in Japan you are tested in your ability to fold a thousand paper cranes.

Source GreatFacts

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