Astronauts

An astronaut, otherwise known as ‘cosmonaut’ or ‘taikonaut’, is any person who travels to space on a human spaceflight program to partake as a crew member or command a spacecraft during a mission or exploration. These professionals need years of training in multidisciplinary fields, before they are sent to space on various missions and before they are officially known as ‘professional space travelers’ or ‘spaceflight participants’. The first manned expedition to outer space was by Yuri Gagarin in 1961, followed by the first woman, Valentina Tereshkova in 1963, both of whom were Soviets. The first American in space in a sub-orbital flight was Alan Shepard and the first American to walk on the moon was Neil Armstrong. It takes years to consolidate a space mission and more than a hundred people to prepare astronauts for their space missions. These professionals are pivotal to the success of the space assignments but the flight opportunities are limited. Thus, space agencies like NASA launch astronauts every year and make sure that the astronaut selected will make the best possible use of the available resources for assigned tasks in space. Up until 2003, astronauts were trained by military, government and civil space agents, but now they are trained by the SSO-SpaceShipOne. Here is a collection of biographies of famous astronauts. Explore all the details about them in their biographies, which include trivia, interesting facts, timeline and life history.
More From Astronauts

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

Vote for Your Favourite Astronauts

 1 Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong.
8
Famous As: First Person To Walk On The Moon
Birthdate: August 5, 1930
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Wapakoneta, Ohio, United States
Died: August 25, 2012

The first person to walk on the Moon, Neil Armstrong was an astronaut and aeronautical engineer. Prior to his trip to the Moon, he became NASA's first civilian astronaut to fly in space. After resigning from NASA, he taught in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati. He was a Presidential Medal of Freedom awardee.

 2 Buzz Aldrin

Buzz Aldrin.
8
Famous As: American engineer
Birthdate: January 20, 1930
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Glen Ridge, New Jersey, U.S.
Buzz Aldrin became the second person to set foot on the Moon, as the pilot of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission, 19 minutes after Neil Armstrong stepped on the Moon, on July 21, 1969. Aldrin has also been a U.S. Air Force officer and flew fighter jets in the Korean War.
Recommended Lists:

 3 John Glenn

John Glenn.
6
Famous As: Tthe First American to Orbit the Earth
Birthdate: July 18, 1921
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Cambridge, Ohio, United States
Died: December 8, 2016

The first American to orbit the Earth, John Glenn was an astronaut, aviator, politician, and businessman. Beginning his career as an army man, he was a fighter pilot in World War II. He later joined NASA and was one of the Mercury Seven. Following his retirement from NASA, he became a politician and served in the US Senate.

 4 Kalpana Chawla

Kalpana Chawla.
8
Famous As: Astronaut
Birthdate: March 17, 1962
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Karnal, India
Died: February 1, 2003
Astronaut Kalpana Chawla became the first Indian-origin woman to go to space in the 1997 STS-87 mission. She and the other crew members of the Space Shuttle Columbia STS-107 mission died when the shuttle exploded before reaching Earth. The Indian weather satellite MetSat-1 was renamed Kalpana-1 in her honor.
Recommended Lists:

 5 Alan Shepard

Alan Shepard.
6
Famous As: Astronaut, Aviator, Entrepreneur
Birthdate: November 18, 1923
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Derry
Died: July 21, 1998

Alan Shepard was an astronaut and the first American to travel into space. In 1971, Shepard became the fifth and oldest astronaut to walk on the Moon; he was 47 years and 80 days old at that time. From 1963 to 1969, he played an important role as the Chief of the Astronaut Office. His work inspired several TV series.

 6 Sunita Williams

Sunita Williams.
4
Famous As: Astronaut
Birthdate: September 19, 1965
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Euclid, Ohio, United States

Sunita Williams is an American US Navy officer and astronaut. She formerly held the records for most spacewalk time for a woman and most spacewalks by a woman. In 2007, she became the first person to run a marathon in space. She has several honors under her belt, including a NASA Spaceflight Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, and Navy Commendation Medal.

Recommended Lists:

 7 Michael Collins

Michael Collins.
4
Famous As: NASA Astronaut, Command Module Pilot for Apollo 11 (the spaceflight that landed the first humans on the Moon)
Birthdate: October 31, 1930
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Rome

Michael Collins is an American astronaut who became the fourth person to perform a spacewalk. He is also the second person to orbit the Moon alone. Collins is best known for flying the Apollo 11 command module Columbia while Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon. In 1969, Michael Collins was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

You May Like

 8 Sally Ride

Sally Ride.
6
Famous As: First American Woman To Go in Space, Physicist
Birthdate: May 26, 1951
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Encino, Los Angeles, California, United States
Died: July 23, 2012
Astronaut and physicist Sally Ride was the first American woman and the youngest American astronaut to enter space. Following her death, it was revealed that she had been in a 27-year lesbian relationship with tennis player and professor Tam O'Shaughnessy. Sally herself was a ranked junior tennis player, too.
Recommended Lists:

 9 Jim Lovell

Jim Lovell
4
Famous As: Astronaut
Birthdate: March 25, 1928
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

Retired American astronaut Jim Lovell commanded the iconic Apollo 13 mission and was one of the first three human beings to fly to the Moon, orbit it, and get back to Earth. He had also been a US Navy captain. Following his retirement, Lovell launched a restaurant in Lake Forest.

 10 Gus Grissom

Gus Grissom.
4
Famous As: Astronaut
Birthdate: April 3, 1926
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Indiana
Died: January 27, 1967

Gus Grissom was the second U.S. astronaut to fly into space. The Distinguished Flying Cross-winner had fought in World War II and the Korean War before being part of Mercury-Redstone 4 and Project Gemini. He died during a pre-launch test of the Apollo 1 mission, along with two colleagues.

Recommended Lists:

 11 Christa McAuliffe

Christa McAuliffe
4
Famous As: Astronaut, Teacher
Birthdate: September 2, 1948
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: January 28, 1986

Christa McAuliffe was an American astronaut and teacher who died while serving as a payload specialist on board Space Shuttle Challenger, which exploded during STS-51-L. McAuliffe was all set to become the first teacher in space as she was part of the NASA Teacher in Space Project. In 2004, she was posthumously honored with the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

 12 Mae Jemison

Mae Jemison.
6
Famous As: First African American Woman To Travel To Space
Birthdate: October 17, 1956
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Decatur, Alabama, United States

Former NASA astronaut Mae Jemison became the first Black woman to fly into space, as a mission specialist on the Space Shuttle Endeavour. A qualified physician, she has served as a Peace Corps doctor, too. She has written several books and established a non-profit and a tech research organization.

Recommended Lists:

 13 Vladimir Komarov

Vladimir Komarov.
6
Famous As: Pilot
Birthdate: March 16, 1927
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Moscow
Died: April 24, 1967

Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov was the first from his country to fly into space twice. He died when his Soyuz 1 capsule crashed while re-entering the Earth, due to a parachute failure, on April 24, 1967, which made him the first human to die in a space flight.

 14 Mark Kelly

Mark Kelly
4
Famous As: Officer, Astronaut, Test pilot
Birthdate: February 21, 1964
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: City of Orange Township

Mark Kelly is a businessman, politician, retired U.S. Navy captain, and former astronaut. He is the current junior US Senator from Arizona. As a naval aviator, he played a major role during the Gulf War where he flew combat missions after which he was chosen as a NASA Space Shuttle pilot. In 2008, he commanded the Space Shuttle mission STS-124.

 15 Valentina Tereshkova

Valentina Tereshkova.
4
Famous As: Pilot, Astronaut, Politician
Birthdate: March 6, 1937
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Bolshoye Maslennikovo, Russia
Former cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova is currently part of the Russian State Duma. In 1963, she became the first woman to fly into space when she went on a solo mission aboard the Vostok 6. She has won many honors, such as the Hero of the Soviet Union.

 16 Chris Hadfield

Chris Hadfield
6
Famous As: Astronaut
Birthdate: August 29, 1959
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Toronto
Recommended Lists:

 17 Gordon Cooper

Gordon Cooper
6
Famous As: Officer, Astronaut, Test pilot, Aerospace engineer, Engineer, Aviator
Birthdate: March 6, 1927
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Shawnee
Died: October 4, 2004

Part of the seven Project Mercury astronauts, Gordon Cooper manned a 34-hour space mission, becoming the first American to stay for a day in space. As part of the Gemini 5 mission, he and his co-pilot proved it was possible for astronauts to survive a mission to the Moon and back.

 18 Jack Swigert

Jack Swigert.
4
Famous As: Astronaut
Birthdate: August 30, 1931
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Denver, Colorado
Died: December 27, 1982

Jack Swigert was an American astronaut who flew to the moon and spent nearly six days in space. He was an engineer who also held a masters degree in business administration. He was involved in the infamous Apollo 15 postal covers incident. He ventured into politics with mixed fortunes.  He was elected to the US Congress but died before being sworn in.

Recommended Lists:

 19 Lisa Nowak

Lisa Nowak
6
Famous As: Naval flight officer, Astronaut, Engineer, Test pilot
Birthdate: May 10, 1963
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Washington, D.C.

Former NASA astronaut and U.S. Navy captain Lisa Nowak was part of the STS-121 mission. She made headlines when she apparently attempted to kidnap Air Force captain Colleen Shipman, who was getting into a relationship with astronaut William Oefelein, who had previously dated Nowak. Nowak was subsequently dismissed from NASA.

 20 Julie Payette

Julie Payette.
4
Famous As: Governor General of Canada
Birthdate: October 20, 1963
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Canadian engineer and astronaut Julie Payette has been the Governor General of Canada from 2017 to 2021. She was initially a research scientist and then joined the Canadian Space Agency, eventually completing two spaceflights. Payette resigned as governor general after a workplace review accused her of workplace harassment.
Recommended Lists:

 21 Scott Kelly

Scott Kelly
8
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: February 21, 1964
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: City of Orange, New Jersey, United States

 22 John Young

John Young
7
Famous As: Astronaut
Birthdate: September 24, 1930
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: San Francisco
Recommended Lists:

 23 Ronald McNair

Ronald McNair
3
Famous As: Physicist, Astronaut
Birthdate: October 21, 1950
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Lake City
Died: January 28, 1986

A doctorate in physics from MIT Cambridge, Ronald McNair worked on chemical lasers before joining NASA and in 1984 flew as a mission specialist on STS-41-B aboard Challenger, becoming the second African-American to do so. In January 1986, he was selected to fly on STS-51-L, but was killed along with rest of the crews when Challenger disintegrated soon after liftoff.

 24 Deke Slayton

Deke Slayton
6
Famous As: Astronaut
Birthdate: March 1, 1924
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Sparta, Wisconsin, United States
Died: June 13, 1993
Recommended Lists:

 25 Scott Carpenter

Scott Carpenter
5
Famous As: Test pilot, Aquanaut, Astronaut, Autobiographer, Aviator, Writer
Birthdate: May 1, 1925
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Boulder
Died: October 10, 2013

 26 Fred Haise

Fred Haise
7
Famous As: Officer, Astronaut, Aviator, Fighter pilot
Birthdate: November 14, 1933
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Biloxi

 27 Pete Conrad

Pete Conrad
7
Famous As: Officer, Astronaut, Aviator, Racecar driver
Birthdate: June 2, 1930
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Philadelphia
Died: July 8, 1999

 28 Ken Mattingly

Ken Mattingly
3
Famous As: Officer, Astronaut, Aviator
Birthdate: March 17, 1936
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Chicago
Recommended Lists:

 29 Peggy Whitson

Peggy Whitson.
5
Famous As: Astronaut, Biochemist
Birthdate: February 9, 1960
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Mount Ayr, Iowa, United States

The first woman to command the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson was born to farmers and decided to become an astronaut after watching the moon landing on TV. She also boasts of a PhD in biochemistry and has been a researcher and educator of biochemistry and genetic engineering.

 30 Edgar Mitchell

Edgar Mitchell
3
Famous As: Officer, Astronaut, Aviator
Birthdate: September 17, 1930
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Hereford
Died: February 4, 2016
Recommended Lists:

 31 Frank Borman

Frank Borman
5
Famous As: Air force officer, Test pilot, Astronaut, Autobiographer, Aviator
Birthdate: March 14, 1928
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Gary

 32 Ed White

Ed White
11
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: November 14, 1930
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: San Antonio, Texas, United States
Died: January 27, 1967
Recommended Lists:

 33 Harrison Schmitt

Harrison Schmitt
5
Famous As: Geologist
Birthdate: July 3, 1935
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Santa Rita, New Mexico, United States

 34 Dick Scobee

Dick Scobee
5
Famous As: Officer, Astronaut
Birthdate: May 19, 1939
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Cle Elum
Died: January 28, 1986

 35 Rakesh Sharma

Rakesh Sharma
5
Famous As: Astronaut, Military personnel
Birthdate: January 13, 1949
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Patiala

 36 Roger B. Chaffee

Roger B. Chaffee
7
Famous As: Officer, Aviator, Astronaut
Birthdate: February 15, 1935
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Grand Rapids
Died: January 27, 1967

 37 Judith Resnik

Judith Resnik
5
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: April 5, 1949
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Akron, Ohio, United States
Died: January 28, 1986

Judith Resnik was an American software engineer, electrical engineer, pilot, biomedical engineer, and NASA astronaut. She was the fourth woman and the first Jewish woman in space, logging 145 hours in orbit. Resnik, who died during the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986, received several posthumous honors. Judith Resnik’s life and career inspired the 1990 TV movie Challenger.

 38 Timothy Peake

Timothy Peake
5
Birthdate: April 7, 1972
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Chichester

 39 Eugene Cernan

Eugene Cernan
7
Famous As: Officer, Aviator, Astronaut, Fighter pilot, Autobiographer, Businessperson
Birthdate: March 14, 1934
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Chicago
Died: January 16, 2017

 40 Anousheh Ansari

Anousheh Ansari
3
Famous As: American-Iranian engineer
Birthdate: September 12, 1966
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Mashhad

 41 Charles Duke

Charles Duke
5
Famous As: Air force officer, Astronaut, Test pilot, Fighter pilot, Flight instructor, Aviator, Businessperson
Birthdate: October 3, 1935
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Charlotte

 42 Guion Bluford

Guion Bluford
5
Famous As: Aerospace Engineer
Birthdate: November 22, 1942
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

 43 Alan Bean

Alan Bean
5
Famous As: Officer, Test pilot, Astronaut, Painter, Aviator
Birthdate: March 15, 1932
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Wheeler

 44 Wally Schirra

Wally Schirra
3
Famous As: United States Naval Aviator, Astronaut, Autobiographer, Test pilot, Aerospace engineer, Aviator, Businessperson
Birthdate: March 12, 1923
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Hackensack
Died: May 3, 2007

 45 Richard Garriott

Richard Garriott
5
Famous As: Astronaut, Engineer, Video game developer, Programmer
Birthdate: July 4, 1961
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Cambridge

 46 Sergei Krikalev

Sergei Krikalev
7
Famous As: Cosmonaut
Birthdate: August 27, 1958
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Saint Petersburg, Russia

 47 Michael J. Smith

Michael J. Smith
3
Birthdate: April 30, 1945
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Beaufort
Died: January 28, 1986

 48 Kathleen Rubins

Kathleen Rubins
3
Famous As: Astronaut, Biologist
Birthdate: October 14, 1978
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Farmington

Kathleen Rubins is a microbiologist and NASA astronaut. In 2016, she became the 60th woman to fly in space when she launched on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. She traveled to the International Space Station and returned to Earth after a few months. She has spent a total of 300 days, 1 hour, and 31 minutes in space. 

 49 Charles Bolden

Charles Bolden
3
Famous As: Astronaut
Birthdate: August 19, 1946
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Columbia, South Carolina, United States

 50 Ellen Ochoa

Ellen Ochoa
3
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: May 10, 1958
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States

Ellen Ochoa is an American engineer and classical flautist. A former astronaut, Ochoa was the first Hispanic woman in space. In 2012, she became the first Hispanic director of Johnson Space Center. Ochoa has won several prestigious awards including NASA's Distinguished Service Medal and Space Flight Medals. In 2017, she was inducted into the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame.

See Also