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National Astronaut Day is celebrated on May 5 since 2016 to commemorate the first time an American, Alan Shepard, went to space. From the first-ever space flight to the longest spaceflight by a woman; we have come a long way.
History of National Astronaut Day
In January 1959, NASA began an astronaut selection procedure in response to the space race and Russia’s first victorious launch into space. This included screening the records of 508 military test pilots from which 110 candidates were chosen. At the end of the extremely tough selection process, seven were chosen based on final interviews. They were: L. Gordon Cooper Jr., Scott Carpenter, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, John H. Glenn Jr., Alan Shepard Jr., Walter Schirra Jr., and Donald Slayton. They would go down in history as the Mercury Seven.
Among them, Astronaut Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. became the first American to be launched into space on May 5, 1961. The flight lasted 15 minutes and reached a height of 116 miles, which itself was a milestone.
National Astronaut Day was created in 2016 by Uniphi Space Agency. It is a talent and marketing division of Uniphi Good LLC, a firm that represents over 20 former NASA astronauts.
National Astronaut Day celebrates astronauts as heroes who keep on inspiring us to reach for the stars. It is a tribute to all those brave people who risked their lives to expand mankind’s knowledge about space exploration and the universe at large.
The intent behind National Astronaut Day is to share experiences and stories from astronauts and spark curiosity among young space lovers and motivate them to follow their dreams.
National Astronaut Day timeline
Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong takes the first steps on the surface of the moon.
Astronaut Alan Shepard Jr. hits a golf ball on the surface of the Moon.
U.S. astronaut John Glenn becomes the oldest astronaut to go to space at 77 years of age.
Jessica Weir and Christina Koch come out of the International Space Station (ISS) to replace a battery charge/discharge unit.
National Astronaut Day FAQs
Who was the first human to go to space?
Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first human to go to space on April 12, 1961. He made a 108-minute orbital flight in his spacecraft Vostok 1.
What is the longest amount of time an astronaut has been in space?
With 665 days, Peggy Whitson holds the record for the most number of days spent in space. The record was set on September 2, 2017.
Who has explored the most number of hours in space?
Dr. Ellen Ochoa, a veteran astronaut and former director of the Johnson Space Center, with 100 hours in orbit, has the highest number of hours in space to her name. She has received the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award and NASA’s highest award, the Distinguished Service Medal along with many other awards.
How To Celebrate National Astronaut Day
Watch a space documentary
There are many documentaries about space exploration on various OTT platforms. Some of these include “Apollo 11,” “Apollo: Missions to the Moon,” “Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow,” “How the Universe Works,” and “The Universe.”
Read biographies of astronauts
Read memoirs by astronauts and learn more about space experiences. Here are some great memoirs you should read: “Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space” by Lynn Sherr, “Apollo 13” by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger, “Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journeys” by Michael Collins, and “Magnificent Desolation” by Buzz Aldrin.
Share your favorite astronaut story
Share your favorite astronaut story or space exploration story on social media. Use the #NationalAstronautDay and #WeBelieveInAstronauts. You can also visit the official website for National Astronaut Day.
5 Facts About Astronauts That You Didn’t Know
Family on the moon
Apollo 16 astronaut Charles Duke left a photograph of his family along with a message on its back mentioning his family and the date — April 1972.
Astronauts cannot feel when their bladders are full due to low gravity and so they are trained to relieve themselves every two hours.
First song in outer space
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first original song in space called “Jewel In The Night.”
Astronauts can grow up to 3% taller due to spending time in microgravity but return to their normal height after a few months back on Earth.
Sunrise and sunset
A space station takes 92 minutes to circle the earth once, which enables astronauts to see a sunrise or sunset about every 45 minutes.
Why National Astronaut Day Is Significant
It celebrates the first space flight by humans
An achievement unlike any other, it commemorates humanity’s efforts to attain what was once considered impossible.
It appreciates the astronauts for their bravery
Astronauts are true heroes. They inspire us all to “reach for the stars” and make us believe that any dream is possible with conviction.
It motivates budding astronauts and the youth
There are many youngsters who share a love for space and dream of becoming astronauts. This day is to motivate all of them to achieve their dreams.
National Astronaut Day dates