Astronauts have to undergo extensive training and testing before they can participate in a spaceflight. They must show that they can handle the physical rigors from the high gravity of launch to the weightlessness of orbit. They also must be technically knowledgeable and able to handle stressful situations that may arise during the mission.
Astronauts have special gear called a spacesuit that they use when they must leave the safety of their spacecraft. These spacesuits provide them with air, protect them from the extreme temperatures of space, and protect them from the radiation of the Sun. Sometimes the spacesuits are tethered to the spacecraft so the astronaut won't float away. Other times the spacesuit is equipped with small rocket thrusters to allow the astronaut to navigate around the spacecraft.
- Buzz Aldrin (1930) - Buzz Aldrin was the second person to walk on the Moon. He was the pilot for the lunar module on the Apollo 11.
- Neil Armstrong (1930 - 2012) - Neil Armstrong was the first person to walk on the Moon. When he stepped onto the Moon he made the famous statement "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Neil was also part of the Gemini VIII mission which was the first time two vehicles successfully docked in space.
- Guion Bluford (1922) - Guion Bluford was the first African American in space. Guion flew on four different space shuttle missions starting as a mission specialist on the Challenger in 1983. He also was a pilot in the U.S. Air Force where he flew 144 missions during the Vietnam War.
- Yuri Gagarin (1934 - 1968) - Yuri Gagarin was a Russian cosmonaut. He was the first human to travel into outer space and orbit the Earth. He was aboard the Vostok spacecraft when it successfully orbited the Earth in 1961.
- Gus Grissom (1926 - 1967) - Gus Grissom was the second American to travel to space aboard the Liberty Bell 7. He also was the commander of the Gemini II which orbited the Earth three times. Gus died in a fire during a pre-flight test for the Apollo 1 mission.
- John Glenn (1921) - John Glenn became the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth in 1962. He was the third American in space. In 1998, Glenn once again traveled to space aboard the space shuttle Discovery. At the age of 77, he was the oldest man to fly in space.
- Mae Jemison (1956) - Mae Jemison became the first black woman astronaut to travel to space in 1992 aboard the space shuttle Endeavour.
- Alan Shepard (1923 - 1998) - In 1961, Alan Shepard became the second person and the first American to travel to outer space aboard the Freedom 7. Several years later he was the commander of the Apollo 14. He landed on the Moon and became the fifth person to walk on the Moon.
- Valentina Tereshkova (1947) - Valentina was a Russian cosmonaut who became the first woman to travel to space in 1963 aboard the Vostok 6.
Fun Facts about Astronauts
- The word "astronaut" comes from the Greek words "astron nautes", which means "star sailor."
- It is estimated that 600 million people watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the Moon on television.
- Astronaut John Glenn became the U.S. Senator from Ohio where he served from 1974 to 1999.
- Alan Shepard became famous for hitting a golf ball while on the Moon.
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