Astronaut facts – Common facts you should know

Many people aspire of becoming an astronaut one day – when you ask a child what they want to be when they grow up, an astronaut is one of the most common answers. Kids grow up looking at space through their children’s telescopes, dreaming of what it’d be like to be an astronaut.

And though an astronauts experiences may be amazing at times, it’s definitely not easy. A lot of training goes into becoming an astronaut, and the truth is that even if you do get picked, it’ll be years before you may actually get to head up into space. But what other interesting facts are there about astronauts? Well, we’re going to look at some of the best ones.

Astronaut facts

  1. It can take many years for you to actually become an astronaut. First you’ll have to go through two or more years of training. Then after this, you’ll also receive several months of training specific to your mission.
  2. Though there have been exceptions, most NASA astronauts are US citizens. NASA usually recommend that if you’re not a US citizen, you look at working with another space company.
  3. More than 60% of the people that have been to space are made up of NASA employees and Americans. The next closest to this is Russia, who’ve taken around 20% of the total approximate 600 cosmonauts and astronauts that have been to space.
  4. The longest that someone has been into space combining their flights 878 days; Russian Gennady Padalka achieved this feat. On average, Russians have a much longer time in space in comparison to NASA astronauts.
  5. In fact, even though Russia has sent far less cosmonauts to space than NASA (around 1/3), the amount of days they’ve spent there adds up to more than all of the NASA astronauts combined!
  6. We use the term astronaut for those trained and sent into space by NASA. For those that are sent into space by Russia, we usually refer to them as cosmonauts.
  7. Between both Russia and America, 19 astro/cosmonauts have unfortunately died whilst travelling in space. A further 11 have died whilst training for their mission. That’s how risky it can be!
  8. Space mission Apollo 1 is an example of this. In 1967, 3 astronauts sadly died whilst in a rehearsal launch for their soon-to-be mission to the moon.
  9. In 2020, Christina Koch became the woman with the longest consecutive amount of time spent in space. She spent 328 1/2 days in space!
  10. Yuri Gargarin became the first person to fly into space all the way back in 1961. He went into space on the well known Vostok spacecraft.
  11. The word astronaut literally comes from the Greek words “astro” and “nautes”, which means star sailor.

How long will astronauts be in space?

The amount of time that an astronaut will spend in space will vary greatly depending on what their mission is. As mentioned earlier, Russians typically have had longer space missions than their American counterparts. Whilst Gennady Padalka has the longest time spent in space (878 days), that’s actually over 5 different flights.

mir
Clouds over Brazil form the Mir Space Station. The delta of the giant Amazon River is at frame center. Elements of this image furnished by NASA.

Valeri Polyakov has spent the most time in space in one consecutive mission. He stayed aboard the Mir space station for 437 days! Mir was de-orbited in 2001 – this means that the mission was ended and the station flew out into the atmosphere, where it ended up being destroyed.

More facts about astronauts

  1. Astronauts used to use bread when eating up in space, but the crumbs became too much to handle. NASA switched over to tortillas in the 1980s, as they make much less of a mess!
  2. An astronaut has to be in pretty good shape, especially as exercising in space is essential to maintain muscle.
  3. Going up into space can actually add a little bit to your height. A person can grow up to 3% when they’re up there!
  4. When going up into space, one of the major concerns for astronauts on a daily basis is germs. For example, sneezing isn’t as easy to clean up as down on Earth, and it doesn’t have far to go with no gravity either.
  5. If you want to spend time aboard the International Space station, you need to learn Russian and speak and understand it at a good level.
  6. Why? Well, although the ISS is a project between the US and Russian (and Japan, Canada and Europe), the only way to get there now is Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft. This is because NASA’s own Space Shuttle was stopped in 2011 after being used for the previous 30 years.

Conclusion

All in all, the life of an astronaut is definitely interesting, though not quite what many people think it will be. The opportunity to go up into space is something that all astronauts hope for throughout their career.

soyuz
The Soyuz spacecraft is currently the only way for both astronauts and cosmonauts to make the journey to outer space.

There are many different facts about astronauts that you may want to know, and this is just a round up of some of the best ones!

About Alan

I'm Alan, and I'm the owner of Odyssey Magazine. My dad bought me my first telescope as a teenager, and I've been obsessed with the universe ever since. We created this resource to try and help kids and adults learn more about astronomy!

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