Travelling into space used to be a dream that could only be fulfilled by a small number of people. But today, we are seeing the first experiments in space tourism moving ahead successfully. Perhaps these fun facts about astronauts will inspire you to learn more about technology and our expansive universe.
In the meantime, here are a few astronaut fun facts you might not know.
Over 20 Interesting Facts about Astronauts
There’s so much about space that’s intriguing, but these interesting astronaut facts are truly out of this world.
1. There Was No Life Insurance for Astronauts
The astronauts of Apollo 11 couldn’t get life insurance, so they signed photos that their families could auction in case the landing went wrong.
2. Astronauts Age Slower in Space
Astronauts at the International Space Station age slightly slower than people on Earth. This is due to many complicated phenomena, but mostly because of relative velocity time dilation. This principle states that the faster one is moving, the slower time moves.
3. A NASA Astronaut Waited 19 Years to Go to Space
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut Don Lind was selected in 1966 but was chosen for canceled missions or as a backup for missions. Don Lind said, “I was backing up two of the most depressingly healthy people you can imagine.” Lind finally flew on the space shuttle in 1985.
4. NASA Astronauts Have to Learn Russian
All US astronauts are required to learn Russian as part of their extensive training and have to be able to run the ISS using Russian-language training manuals if necessary.
Read more interesting facts about language.
5. Astronauts Are Even Trained to Sleep
Astronauts must have good airflow around them when they sleep, otherwise, they could wake up oxygen-deprived and gasping for air because a bubble of their own exhaled carbon dioxide had formed around their heads.
6. An Astronaut Once Pranked Flight Controllers
NASA Astronaut Owen Garriott successfully pranked flight controllers by playing a recording of his wife whilst on SkyLab. There were no women on board the space station, and it was used to make it look like there was a stowaway. How’s that for a fun fact about astronauts?
7. NASA Mistakenly Sold Something Very Important
NASA accidentally auctioned off a bag that was used by Apollo 11 astronauts to collect the first lunar sample for only $995. When the buyer sent the bag to NASA for verification, the space agency realized its mistake and refused to return it.
8. A Barber Tried to Sell Neil Armstrong’s Hair
Neil Armstrong threatened legal action against his barber, for selling his hair to a collector for $3,000.
9. Astronaut Declarations Are Not Scripted
Apollo 12 commander Pete Conrad’s first word upon setting foot on the Moon was “Whoopee!” in order to win a $500 bet with an Italian journalist that NASA didn’t script astronaut declarations.
10. There’s a Memorial on the Moon
In 1971, the US left a memorial on the Moon for every astronaut who died in the pursuit of space exploration, including Russian Cosmonauts.
11. Star Trek Inspired the First Female African-American Astronaut
Mae Jemison, the first female African-American astronaut, was inspired to apply to NASA by the Star Trek character Lieutenant Uhura. Jemison later went on to make a cameo appearance in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
12. Astronaut Michael Collin Feared Returning to Earth Alone
Astronaut Michael Collin’s secret fear was that he had to return to Earth alone, leaving Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stranded on the moon. He sometimes thought it would be better to not have that option.
13. Standing on the Moon Offers a Spectacular Perspective
When Astronaut Ed Mitchell was asked what it’s like to stand on the moon, he said: “From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a b*tch.’
14. NASS Uses the Metric System
Because space projects are international, NASA decided to use a more universal system of measurement, the metric system. This is despite the fact that the USA usually uses the imperial system of measurement.
15. A Wedding Ring Was Found on the Moon
An Apollo astronaut lost his wedding ring during his trip to the moon and found it again during a spacewalk.
16. Neil Armstrong’s Astronaut Application Was Late
Out of all the facts about astronaut Neil Armstrong, this one might be the craziest. Armstrong’s application form arrived a week past the deadline. His friend Dick Day saw the late arrival of the application and slipped it into the pile before anyone noticed.
17. The Oldest Person to Visit Space Was 77
Astronaut John Glenn became the oldest person in space at 77 after “lobbying NASA for two years to fly as a human guinea pig for geriatric studies”.
18. Astronauts May Have Survived the Challenger
It is almost certain that the astronauts survived the initial Challenger explosion and died on impact with the water. At least three of the crew’s emergency oxygen tanks were manually switched on after the crew’s capsule broke apart from the rest of the shuttle.
19. Astronaut Gus Grissom Had Hay Fever
The second American in space had hay fever and was almost disqualified from astronaut training until NASA realized the absence of pollen in space.
20. Astronauts Empty Their Bladders Every Two Hours
Low gravity makes it difficult to tell if your bladder is full because the bladder’s stretch receptor nerves don’t feel the weight of the liquid. Astronauts are trained to empty their bladders every two hours because of this.
21. Space Radiation Is Dangerous
While there are many interesting facts about astronauts and space travel, this one is a little scary. The threshold for exposure to space radiation is lower for women than it is for men. This cosmic radiation increases the likelihood of developing diseases such as cancer. This is why there are fewer female astronauts than males.
22. The Russians Were the First to See Space
The first visitor into space was the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. On April 12, 1961, aboard the ship Vostok 1, he circled Earth at a speed of 27,400 km per hour, lasting 108 minutes.
23. Astronauts have Jetpacks
The NASA backpack is a 140 kg propulsion backpack that allows astronauts to fly freely. It is made up of two aluminum tanks. Each of them contains 5.9 kilos of nitrogen at a pressure of 20.7 kilopascals. This is enough for more than six hours of extravehicular activity.
24. Going to the Bathroom Is Tricky in Space
Astronauts have special diapers for short-term trips called MAG. For longer trips, there are special toilets that operate at zero gravity. They don’t actually absorb the waste. Instead, they act as a vacuum cleaner that grabs anything that floats in the ship.
25. You Can’t Shower in Space
There aren’t any rain showers on a spaceship. All water onboard must be carried from Earth, so it is very carefully rationed. This means that astronauts lather with a damp cloth rather than having a shower.
Read more on interesting facts about Earth.
26. A Space Suit is Super Strong
Space Suits don’t burn or melt — they can stand temperatures of up to 260°C. They can also stand intense cold up to -270°C. There was no mention of how comfortable or flattering the space suits are!
27. Astronauts’ Bodies Change in Space
They tend to lose muscle mass because they don’t have to use the force we require on Earth to resist gravity.
They can end up with swollen faces as water moves from the lower body to the upper body when there is no gravity. Bone density can also reduce by up to more than 1% per month when in space.
28. Walking in Space Is Tricky
Astronauts train to walk in space by walking underwater. As we are weightless when we float, NASA considers this the best way to train for a zero-gravity environment.
29. Astronauts Become Taller in Space
As there is less pressure on the spine due to the lack of gravity, the height of an astronaut can increase by about five centimeters when they are in space.
30. Space Can Change Your Heart
The shape of an astronaut’s heart can change while they are in space. Again due to the lack of gravity, the heart of an astronaut can become 10% more spherical, which can lead to heart problems.
31. Space Is Bad News for Your Fingers
The gloves that astronauts have to wear cut off circulation to the fingers but also apply strong pressure to the tips of each of the fingers. This means that astronauts’ nails tend to fall off, whilst they end up with hands covered in blisters as well. A post-space manicure is essential!
32. Space Suits Are Heavy
They have more than 295 feet of pipe in them to regular the suit’s cooling system. This means that the average space suit weighs over 275 pounds.
33. Laika Was the First Dog in Space
The first living creature that went into space was the Soviet dog Laika. Laika was aboard the Sputnik 2 on November 3, 1957. Unfortunately, Laika died about 5 hours after being sent into space due to the stress that it suffered.
Read more interesting facts about dogs and interesting facts about animals.
34. There Is No Snoring in Space
The vacuum of space means that sound waves can’t be transported, which means they can’t be heard. No more snoring.
35. You Can’t Skip Leg Day in Space
The muscles of an astronaut will atrophy quickly in space, so muscles need to be exercised. For this reason, there is a gym at the International Space Station to allow astronauts to work out.
36. Astronaughts See Many Sunrises Each Day
The sun actually rises and sets about every 90 minutes in space. This makes it difficult for astronauts to get a decent amount of sleep.