What Is The Difference Between An Astronaut And A Cosmonaut?

An astronaut in deep space.
An astronaut in deep space.

A cosmonaut refers to a person that is trained and certified by the Russian Space Agency to work in space. Simply, she or he is a person from Russia who travels in space. On the other hand, an astronaut is a person trained and certified by JAXA, ESA, NASA, or CSA to work in space. For functionality purposes, both terms are similar as they refer to the same profession. However, the differences come due to their operational philosophies that are slightly different. Such principles relate to knowledge areas and skill sets regarding space, humans, spacecraft, and earth.

Differences Between An Astronaut And A Cosmonaut

The first difference is that Americans use the word astronauts while the Russians use the term cosmonauts.

The second difference is with regards to the qualifications of becoming a cosmonaut or astronaut. The maximum age to enroll for service as an astronaut is 40 years. The individual must have studied Bachelor of Science and graduated from the US military test pilot school. Besides, their height should be less than 5’11. Additionally, they must have a minimum of 1500 hours flight time. On the contrary, the cosmonauts should have at least 900 hours flight time and a height of 5’7. Also, they need to have graduated from the Soviet Air Force. Most cosmonauts are military officers selected from IMBP, the Russian Airforce, and RSC Energiya. They must not be older than 30 years of age.

Thirdly, to be an astronaut one has to have a vast knowledge of the life in space and human’s relationship to space. They must also know how to pilot and service the spacecraft. On the contrary, cosmonauts work outside the Earth’s atmosphere hence such knowledge is not mandatory.

Space Trave Milestones

The first human being to land in space on April 12, 1961, was Russia’s Yuri Gagarin. Gagarin orbited the earth for 108 minutes. Two years later on June 19, 1963, the first woman safely arrived in space. Her name was Valentina Tereshkova, a native of present-day Russia. Tereshkova orbited the earth for about three days. The first American and subsequently the second human to arrive in space was Alan Shepard. Shepard succeeded in making a 15-minute sub-orbital flight in space.

Later on, John Glenn became the first man to orbit the earth. The first American woman in space was Sally Ride while the first African American woman in space was Mae Jemison. They went to space in 1983 and 1992 respectively. The youngest person to have flown in space was Gherman Titov. He was only 25 when he flew Vostok 2. On the other hand, the oldest person to have flown to space was John Glenn at age 77. These many achievements in space travel have made the world leap into a season of space knowledge that it could only dream of many decades and centuries ago.


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