Exploring Outer Space! Astronauts & Satellites

Exploring Outer Space! Astronauts & Satellites

Do you know what an astronaut is?

The word “astronaut” comes from the Greek words “astron nautes”, which mean “star sailor”.

An astronaut is a person who is specially trained to travel into outer space. Astronauts used to travel on their own – it must have been quite lonely!

Today, a few men and women can make up a team and travel together as crew in a rocket ship. While on board the spacecraft, they will each have different responsibilities and different jobs to do.

The crew is much like one on an airplane or ship. There will be the leader (a commander), a pilot, and other positions including flight engineer, payload commander, mission specialist and science pilot.

Astronauts need to have extensive training and testing before they can take part in a spaceflight. After finishing high school, they need to go to college, and then do even more training. Eventually, the field narrows down and they can become an astronaut.

However, before they can go into space, they must show that they can handle the physical rigors – from the high gravity of launch, to the weightlessness of orbit. They also must be technically knowledgeable and able to handle stressful situations that may arise during the mission.

The astronauts have to be able to wear special gear called a spacesuit. This spacesuit is something they have to wear when they leave the safety of the spacecraft. The spacesuit will provide them with air, and protect them from the extreme temperatures of space and the sun’s radiation.

When they leave the spacecraft, the air makes them float around because there is no gravity to pull them down. Sometimes, the spacesuits are tied to the airship, so that the astronaut doesn’t float away. That would be very scary because they would never be able to get back to earth. If they aren’t tied, the spacesuit might be made with a small rocket with thrusters, which would allow the astronaut to navigate around the spacecraft.

Here are some well-known astronauts: You will always remember these names, as they did something many, many people want to do – go into space!

Yuri Gagarin was a Russian cosmonaut. He was the first human to travel into outer space and orbit the earth. He was aboard the Vostok spacecraft when it successfully orbited the earth in 1961.

Valentina Tereshkova was a Russian cosmonaut who became the first woman to travel to space in 1963 aboard the Vostok 6.

Neil Armstrong was the first person to walk on the moon. When he stepped onto the moon, he said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” That saying has become very well-known and made him famous. Armstrong was also on another famous mission: the Gemini VIII mission. This was the first time two space ships successfully docked together in space.

Buzz Aldrin was the second person to walk on the moon. He was the pilot for the lunar module on the Apollo 11.                         

Guion Bluford was the first African American in space. Bluford flew on four different space shuttle missions, starting as a mission specialist on the Challenger in 1983. He was also a pilot in the U.S. Air Force where he flew 144 missions during the Vietnam War.

Mae Jemison became the first black woman astronaut to travel to space in 1992 aboard the space shuttle Endeavour.

Gus Grissom was the second American to travel to space aboard the Liberty Bell 7. He also was the commander of the Gemini II which orbited the Earth three times. Unfortunately, he died in a fire during a pre-flight test for the Apollo I mission. This kind of work can be very dangerous.

Sally Ride was the first American woman and the youngest American astronaut in space.

It is estimated that more than 600 million people were watching television when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first people ever in the world to walk on the moon.


A satellite is an object that goes around and around another bigger object. There are natural satellites and man-made satellites in space. We can say that the earth is a satellite, because it goes around the sun. The first satellite sent into space by man was called the Sputnik! Satellites move around the earth because earth’s gravity pulls on it, causing it to keep going around and around. The route the satellite takes is not always in a perfect circle.

Manmade satellites are sent into space to help man read weather conditions; to help with communications around the world; and to help ships and airplanes with their navigation. We wonder how crowded it’s getting with all these satellites up there.