When it comes to well-known astronauts, how can you forget the likes of Buzz Aldrin and Christa McAuliffe? In this article, we will take a look at why these astronauts have gained a place in our hearts and what their contribution to astronomy and space exploration did they play a part in.
Donald “Deke” Slayton
Born on March 1, 1924, Donald “Deke” Slayton would later grow up to become involved in the original Mercury missions. Because of a heart problem, Slayton was unable to go into space, but he got a chance fly on the ASTP (Apollo-Soyuz Test Project) flight, which took place on July 15-24, 1975. The ASTP was known as the space link-up between the United States and the Soviet Union, where he and two other astronauts docked with a Soviet Soyuz that included two cosmonauts aboard. After the mission was complete, the Apollo spacecraft filled with toxic exhaust gas. As a result, Slayton suffered severe burns on his lungs. He and the other astronauts almost died. This would become Slayton’s only mission, but he still managed to log in nearly nine days in space. In 1981, Slayton resigned from NASA.
Edwin E. Aldrin
Edwin E. Aldrin (who is better known as “Buzz”) is a New Jersey native born on January 20th, 1930. Buzz joined NASA in October of 1963, after serving some time as a West Point graduate and combat pilot. It was at this time with NASA that he became a capcom (capsule communicator) for Gemini 5 and Gemini 10. As the last of the Gemini missions neared, Aldrin is known for piloting Gemini 12 between November 11th and 15th, 1966, which was his first space flight.
Speaking of famous astronauts isn’t the same if you leave out Neil Armstrong, who is known for his historical first steps on the Moon. The date was July 20th, 1969 when Armstrong became an icon. Before becoming an astronaut, Armstrong served as a test pilot. His time in space would last eight days, 14 hours, and 12 minutes. His missions included Gemini 8 and Apollo 11.
Many people are familiar with Christa McAuliffe because of the tragic explosion of the Challenger, which took her life on January 28the, 1986. Out of 10,463 applicants, McAuliffe was chosen as the first teacher to take off into space, but unfortunately , she never reached her intended destination, as the challenger exploded seconds after her take-off. Before entering the Challenger program, she taught high school social studies in Concord, New Hampshire.
Another well-known female astronaut is Sally Ride, who was became the first American woman in space. Her historic flight took place on between June 18th and 24th, 1983, when she stepped foot on the STS-7. A second flight would later take place during the shuttle mission named 41-G (between October 5th and 13th 1984). Ride would later retire from NASA in August of 1987.
In Part 2 of Famous Astronauts, you will learn about the first American man in space, as well as Alan Shepherd, who would visit space more than once.