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This is a list of astronauts by year of selection: people selected to train for a human spaceflight program to command, pilot, or serve as a crew member of a spacecraft. Until recently, astronauts were sponsored and trained exclusively by governments, either by the military or by civilian space agencies. However, with the advent of suborbital flight starting with privately funded SpaceShipOne in 2004, a new category of astronaut was created: the commercial astronaut.
While the term astronaut is sometimes applied to anyone who trains for travels into space—including scientists, politicians, journalists, and tourists—this article lists only professional astronauts, those who have been selected to train as a profession. This includes national space programs and private industry programs which train and/or hire their own professional astronauts.
The first group of astronauts selected by NASA were for Project Mercury in April 1959. All seven were military test pilots, a requirement specified by President Eisenhower to simplify the selection process. All seven eventually flew in space, although one, Deke Slayton, did not fly a Mercury mission due to a medical disqualification, instead flying a decade later on the Apollo–Soyuz mission. The other six each flew one Mercury mission. For two of these, Scott Carpenter and John Glenn, the Mercury mission was their only flight in the Mercury/Gemini/Apollo era. Glenn later flew on the Space Shuttle.
Three of the Mercury astronauts, Gus Grissom, Gordon Cooper and Wally Schirra, also each flew a mission during the Gemini program. Alan Shepard was slated to fly Mercury 10 before its cancellation and was the original commander for the Gemini 3 mission, but did not fly due to a medical disqualification. After surgery to correct the problem, he later flew as commander of Apollo 14. He was the only Mercury astronaut to go to the Moon.
Wally Schirra was the only astronaut to fly into space on all three types of spacecraft, though Gus Grissom was scheduled to be first to complete that feat before he died in a fire on Apollo 1 during launchpad training. Gordon Cooper was a backup commander for Apollo 10, the "dress rehearsal" flight for the lunar landing, and would have commanded another mission—likely to have been Apollo 13, according to the crew rotation—but was bumped from the rotation after a disagreement with NASA management.
Collectively, at least one member of the Mercury Seven flew on every NASA class of human-rated spacecraft (but neither the Skylab nor ISS space stations) through the end of the 20th century: Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and the Space Shuttle.
The last surviving member of this group was John Glenn; he died in 2016.
On March 12, 1962, a group of five civilian women with parachuting experience was added to the cosmonaut training program. Only Tereshkova would fly. A leading Soviet high-altitude parachutist, 20-year-old Tatyana Kuznetsova was, and remains, the youngest person ever selected to train for spaceflight.
September 17 – NASA Group 2 – The Next Nine, akaThe Nifty Nine, The New Nine (USA)
A second group of nine astronauts was selected by NASA in September 1962. All of this group flew missions in the Gemini program except Elliot See, who died in a flight accident while preparing for the Gemini 9 flight. All of the others also flew on Apollo, except for Ed White, who died in the Apollo 1 launchpad fire.
Three of this group, McDivitt, Borman and Armstrong, made single flights in both Gemini and Apollo. Four others, Young, Lovell, Stafford and Conrad, each made two flights in Gemini and at least one flight in Apollo. Young and Lovell both made two Apollo flights. Conrad and Stafford also made second flights in Apollo spacecraft, Conrad on Skylab 2 and Stafford in Apollo–Soyuz.
Six of this group, Borman, Lovell, Stafford, Young, Armstrong and Conrad, made flights to the Moon. Lovell and Young went to the Moon twice. Armstrong, Conrad, and Young walked on the Moon. McDivitt was later Apollo Program Director and became the first general officer and would have been either the prime LM Pilot or backup commander for Apollo 14, but left NASA due to a conflict between Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton. John Young also later flew on the Space Shuttle (STS-1 and STS-9) and would retire from NASA in 2004. He was both the first and last of his group to go into space.
September 19 – Dyna-Soar Group 2 (USA)
On September 19, 1962, Albert Crews (born 1929) was added to the Dyna-Soar program and the names of the six active Dyna-Soar astronauts were announced to the public.
While four members of Group 3 died in accidents before ever reaching space—Chaffee in the Apollo 1 fire, Bassett, Freeman and Williams in crashes of NASA T-38jet trainers—the other ten all flew on the Apollo program. Aldrin, Bean, Cernan and Scott walked on the Moon. Five of them: Aldrin, Cernan, Collins, Gordon and Scott also flew missions during the Gemini program. Cernan would be the only astronaut from this group to fly to the Moon twice, being assigned to both Apollo 10 and Apollo 17, while Bean would command the Skylab 3 mission.
January 25 – Air Force Group 2 Supplemental (USSR)
In 1965, three civilian journalists, Yaroslav Golovanov, Yuri Letunov, Mikhail Rebrov, were selected for cosmonaut training in preparation for flight on a Voskhod mission. When the Voskhod program was canceled, Golovanov and Letunov were dismissed. Rebrov, on the other hand, stayed with the space program as a journalist until 1974.
June 1 – Medical Group 2 (USSR)
Three physicians were selected for the long-duration Voskhod flights: Yevgeni Illyin, Aleksandr Kiselyov, Yuri Senkevich. All were subsequently canceled to make way for the Soviet Moon program and dismissed at the beginning of the following year.
Graveline and Michel left NASA without flying in space. Schmitt walked on the Moon with Apollo 17. Garriott, Gibson and Kerwin all flew to Skylab. Garriott also flew on Space Shuttle flight STS-9, becoming the first Amateur radio operator (callsign W5LFL) to operate from orbit.
This cosmonaut group was selected for participation in five separate Soyuz programmes that the USSR was running. These included military programs—with and without the Almaz/Salyutspace stations—and two lunar programs, only one of which aimed at an actual lunar landing. In the end, only the orbital program and the space station program went ahead. Few of the cosmonauts from this group ever were given the chance to fly.
This group was selected for training for the US Air Force's Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) program. Of this group, only Truly transferred to NASA after the cancellation of the MOL program and later flew on the Space Shuttle. In 1989, Truly became the first astronaut to be NASA Administrator.
Veteran astronaut John Young christened this group the "Original Nineteen," in parody of the original seven Mercury astronauts. Roughly half of them flew in the Apollo program, while others flew during Skylab and the Space Shuttle, with Brand also flying on the American half of the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project in 1975. Engle was the only NASA astronaut to have earned his astronaut wings before his selection.
Two of this group never flew into space: Givens was killed in a car accident in 1967, and Bull resigned from the Astronaut Corps in 1968 after discovering he had pulmonary disease. Engle, Lind, and McCandless were the only ones from this group who never flew an Apollo spacecraft; Brand, Haise, Lousma, Mattingly, and Weitz all flew both an Apollo and a Shuttle (though Haise only flew the Approach and Landing Tests in the Shuttle program, not into space).
This second group of scientist-astronauts were assigned as support crew members for the last three Apollo missions or as backup crew members for Skylab.
Chapman, Holmquest, Llewellyn, and O'Leary resigned from NASA before the end of the Apollo program, and the rest of the group members eventually flew as Mission Specialists during the Space Shuttle program. With his flight on STS-80 at the age of 61, Musgrave held the title of "oldest astronaut" prior to John Glenn's second flight. England resigned from NASA in 1972 but rejoined the astronaut corps in 1979.
This group is all USAF MOL astronauts who transferred to NASA after the cancellation of the MOL program in 1969. All flew on early Space Shuttle flights. Truly, in 1989, would become the first astronaut to become NASA Administrator, holding the position until 1992.
September 10 – Civilian Engineer Group (USSR)
Anatoli Demyanenko, Valeri Makrushin, and Dmitri Yuyukov.
Chai Hongliang, Dong Xiaohai, Du Jincheng, Fang Guojun, Hu Zhanzi, Li Shichang, Liu Chongfu, Liu Zhongyi, Lu Xiangxiao, Ma Zizhong, Meng Senlin, Shao Zhijian, Wang Fuhe, Wang Fuquan, Wang Quanbo, Wang Rongsen, Wang Zhiyue, Yu Guilin, Zhang Ruxiang
Protchenko was removed from the squad for health reasons, Ivanov was killed in the crash of a MiG-27 during test pilot training and Kadenyuk was removed from the squad over marital issues (but accepted back into the Cosmonaut Detachment in 1988). Vasyutin concealed a medical condition from doctors that resulted in his falling ill during the Soyuz T-14/ Salyut 7 EO-4 flight causing the premature termination of the mission 4 months early. This resulted in more stringent cosmonaut medical checks which Moskalenko and Saley failed.
Two different astronaut groups were formed: pilots and mission specialists. Additionally, the Shuttle Program has payload specialists who are selected for a single mission and are not part of the astronaut corps—mostly scientists, with a few politicians, and many international astronauts.
Of the first of the post-Apollo group, Sally Ride would become the first American woman in space (STS-7). Later, she would fly with Kathryn Sullivan on a Shuttle flight in which Sullivan would become the first American woman to perform an EVA. Dr. Thagard, who flew with Ride on STS-7, would later become the first American to be launched on a Russian rocket (Soyuz TM-21 or "Mir-18") to the Mir space station, while Shannon Lucid would serve on Mir for slightly over six months, breaking all American space duration records (both the Skylab 4 record and Thagard's) from 1996 to 1997 until Sunita Williams, who was selected 20 years later, broke Lucid's record.
Of this group, Scobee, Resnik, Onizuka, and McNair would perish in the Challenger Disaster. Of the astronauts chosen, Anna Fisher remained on active duty the longest, retiring in 2017 (although her tenure included an extended leave of absence from 1989 to 1996), while Robert Gibson and Rhea Seddon became the first active-duty astronauts to marry (both are now retired). Shannon Lucid's tenure was unbroken from 1978 until she announced her retirement in 2012. In later years she served as a space shuttle CAPCOM, up to the final day of the final shuttle mission. After the Challenger disaster, Sally Ride would serve on both the Rogers Commission and the Columbia Accident Investigation Board.
Frank J. Casserino, Jeffrey E. Detroye, Michael A. Hamel, Terry A. Higbee, Daryl J. Joseph, Malcolm W. Lydon, Gary E. Payton, Jerry J. Rij, Paul A. Sefchek, Eric E. Sundberg, David M. Vidrine, John B. Watterson, Keith C. Wright
Of this group, only Payton ever flew into space, as a Payload Specialist aboard a dedicated Department of Defense Shuttle flight.
Of this group, Franklin Chang-Diaz would become the first Hispanic-American in space, Michael Smith would perish in the Challenger disaster, and John Blaha would fly aboard the Mir space station. Both Jerry Ross and Chang-Diaz currently jointly hold the record of number of crewed spaceflights flown, at seven. Charles Bolden was chosen in 2009 to become the second NASA astronaut and the first African-American to the post of NASA Administrator on a full-time basis (although Frederick Gregory, who is also African-American and a former Shuttle commander, held the post on a temporary basis between the departure of Sean O'Keefe and the appointment of Michael Griffin in 2005). The announcement, made a day before the conclusion of the STS-125 flight to the Hubble Space Telescope, was coincidental, because Bolden was the pilot on the telescope's deployment flight in 1990.
July 30 – LII–1/IMBP–3/MAP/NPOE-5/AN–2 Cosmonaut Group (Soviet Union)
Chrétien and Baudry would become the first Frenchmen in space. Chrétien flew with Soviets to Salyut 7 in 1982, and Baudry on Space Shuttle STS-51-G flight in 1985. Chrétien would later fly to the Space Station Mir and would become a Shuttle Mission Specialist in the 1990s.
This first Canadian astronaut group was selected by the National Research Council and were transferred to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) when it was created in 1989. All the astronauts flew on the US Space Shuttle by 1997 except Ken Money, who resigned from CSA in 1992.
February 15 – NPOE–6 Cosmonaut Group (Soviet Union)
Of this group, William Shepherd would become the commander of the first International Space Station crew (Expedition 1). James Wetherbee would become the only person to command five spaceflight missions. Sonny Carter died in 1991 in a plane crash while on NASA business.
June 12 – The third group of test pilots for the project "Buran" – Gromov Flight Research Institute group (USSR)
Although selected to fly on the Space Shuttle, none of the group members flew due to the Challenger disaster of 1986. Bhat was assigned to a shuttle flight that was cancelled in the wake of Challenger.
McAuliffe and Morgan were selected as the prime and backup Payload Specialists for the STS-51-L mission in 1985. McAuliffe was killed in the Challenger disaster, 73 seconds after liftoff. Morgan would later join the NASA Astronaut Corps in 1998. She flew on the STS-118 mission in 2007, 21 years after Challenger.
The group's informal nickname is an acronym for "George Abbey Final Fifteen." Of this group, Mae Jemison would become the first female African-American in space, while Michael Foale would serve on extended missions to both Mir and the International Space Station, as well as a mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope.
22 March – The last group of test pilots for the Buran project – Gromov Flight Research Institute group) (USSR)
Officially, the cosmonaut corps LII (Letno-ispitatelny Institut = Flight Research Institute) ceased to exist in 2002, having gone through a long period of inactivity since the closure of the Buran program in 1993. Of all those selected and trained, only two cosmonauts traveled to space: Igor Volk and Anatoly Levchenko. More information about the Buran space flight program and Soyuz-Savior, the Soyuz-spasatel program and its cosmonauts, who were trained to fly in space, can be found on the Buran program website.
Collins would go on to be the first female shuttle pilot, the first female shuttle commander, and then commander of the second "Return to Flight" mission in 2005. The "Hairballs" nickname, according to Jones in his book Sky Walking, came after the group, the 13th NASA astronaut class, put a black cat on its group patch.
Beginning with this NASA Group, non-US astronauts representing their home country's space agencies were brought in and trained alongside their NASA counterparts as full-fledged mission specialists, eligible to be assigned to any shuttle mission.
Husband, Anderson and Chawla were crewmembers on the final Columbia mission. Chrétien trained as a backup Spacelab crew member in the 1980s and flew on both US and Soviet/Russian spacecraft, along with being the first non-US or Soviet/Russian astronaut to perform a space walk.
Brown, Clark and McCool were crewmembers on the final Columbia mission. Mark and Scott Kelly are twin brothers; James Kelly is not related. Loria resigned from his shuttle mission due to injury and never flew before retiring from the astronaut corps. Nowak, who flew on STS-121, was arrested on February 5, 2007, after confronting a woman entangled in a love triangle with a fellow astronaut. She was dismissed by NASA on March 6, the first astronaut to be both grounded and dismissed (prior astronauts who were grounded due to non-medical issues usually resigned or retired).
In October 2003, Yang Liwei became the first man to be sent into space by the space program of China, and his mission, Shenzhou 5, made the PRC the third country to independently send people into space.
This group includes Barbara Morgan, who was the backup "Teacher-In-Space" for Christa McAuliffe of the ill-fated Challenger Disaster in 1986. While often referred to as an Educator Astronaut, Morgan was selected by NASA as a Mission Specialist before the Educator Astronaut Project was formed.
Patricia Robertson (née Hilliard) was killed in the crash of a private airplane before she was assigned to a Shuttle mission.
Oefelein was dismissed from NASA in 2007 due to his involvement in a love triangle with fellow astronaut Lisa Nowak.
* 2003 marked the first group of commercial astronauts. Only Binnie and Melville reached space, during a SpaceShipOne flight. Siebold has also piloted SpaceShipTwo, but no flights have yet reached space.
In 2006, four Malaysians were chosen to train for a flight to the International Space Station through the Angkasawan program. Sheikh Muszaphar became the first Malaysian in space when he flew aboard Soyuz TMA-11.
8413 applications were received. Of those, 1430 (17%) were women. The most common first citizenship of the applicants was France (22.1%), Germany (21.4%), Italy (11.0%), the United Kingdom (9.8%), and Spain (9.4%).
NASA selected the nine members of Group 20 from over 3500 applicants. The NASA candidates were announced in June; international astronauts were added later that year. This was the first group of astronauts chosen for the post-Space Shuttle era and not trained to fly the Shuttle. Fischer, Tingle, and Wiseman were selected as pilots, but there is currently no distinction between pilots and non-pilots: all are considered Mission Specialists.
From 1 January 2011 at the Research Institute of the Y. A. Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center is a single detachment of the Russian Space Agency astronauts, which in 2015 consisted of 38 people. The next set of candidates was announced at the beginning of 2016, then postponed until 2017. In September 2016, the unit counted 31 astronauts.
February 28 –Association of Spaceflight Professionals – Group3
Christopher Altman, Jon-Erik Dahlin, Melania Guerra, Mindy Howard, Kris Lehnhardt, Abhishek Tripathi, Cosan Unuvar, Pavel Zagadailov, Luis Zea
In 2018, Al Mansouri and Al Niadi were announced as candidates to fly to the ISS on a Soyuz, as guest cosmonauts (Al Mansouri flew in 2019, with Al Niadi as his backup). In 2020, the two were named to be assigned to Houston to train as full-fledged mission specialist astronauts and to join the cadre of International Partner Astronauts.
The space market exceeds $330 billion today. Current estimates show the number growing to nearly $3 trillion over the next three decades. Human spaceflight is one of the sectors positioned for greatest growth. Commercial astronauts are expected to fill the gap in this transition.
Boeing hired former NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson to join the Space Exploration Team. Candidates for Boeing's astronaut corps include former NASA astronauts, commercial scientist astronauts and test pilots who have never flown in space.
SpaceX has employed former NASA astronauts, but did not select any SpaceX employees to fly its commercial vehicles to the International Space Station.
The world's first commercial astronaut corps, the Association of Spaceflight Professionals received funding for a series of crewed spaceflight missions through the NASA Flight Opportunities Program in March 2012.
The Teachers in Space program began in 2005. In 2012, the United States Rocket Academy announced that the program was expanding to include a broader range of participants, renaming the initiative Citizens in Space. For its first phase, Citizens in Space selected and trained ten citizen astronaut candidates to fly as payload operators, including four astronaut candidates already in training (Maureen Adams, Steve Heck, Michael Johnson, and Edward Wright). Informal educator and aerospace historian Gregory Kennedy was among those listed.
Mars One was a private initiative with claims to establish a permanent human colony on Mars by 2023. The project was led by Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, who announced plans for the Mars One mission in May 2012.
A Mars One astronaut selection announcement was made on April 19, 2013, and started its search on April 22, 2013. By August 2013, Mars One had more than 200,000 applicants from around the world. Round Two selection results were declared on December 30, 2013, wherein a total of 1058 applicants from 107 countries were selected.
Mars One received a variety of criticism relating to medical, technical and financial feasibility. Unverified rumors claimed that Mars One was a scam designed to take as much money as possible from donors, including those participating as contestants.
In February 2019, it was reported that Mars One had declared bankruptcy in a Swiss court on January 15, 2019, and was permanently dissolved as a company.
Waypoint2Space was granted FAA safety approval for its training services in 2014. The company works in collaboration with NASAJohnson Space Center in Houston to provide spaceflight training.
The first private firm that tried to build a suborbital space rocket, Truax Engineering, selected company employee, engineer and lifelong aviator Jeana Yeager as the first test pilot for its rocket. The project was halted in 1991 due to lack of funds.
^Reimuller, J. et al.PoSSUM: Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere. American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2013, abstract id. SA33B-1993. adsabs.harvard.edu. "An acronym for Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere, PoSSUM grew from the opportunity created by the Noctilucent Cloud Imagery and Tomography Experiment, selected by the NASA Flight Opportunities Program as Experiment 46-S in March 2012."
^Messier, Doug. Project PoSSUM Graduates First Class of Scientist-Astronauts. Parabolic Arc. February 24, 2015. "The project evolved from the Noctilucent Cloud Imagery and Tomography experiment, selected by NASA's Flight Opportunities Program in March 2012 as experiment 46-S. PoSSUM is managed by Integrated Spaceflight Services under principal investigator Jason Reimuller, Vice President and COO, Association of Spaceflight Professionals."
^The PoSSUM Campaign: Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere. Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colorado. Southwest Research Institute. "PoSSUM will optimize the opportunity created by the "PMC Imagery and Tomography Experiment", a high-latitude campaign selected by the NASA Flight Opportunities Program (Experiment 46-S) to study the small-scale dynamics of PMCs (polar mesospheric clouds). The PoSSUM Project will make full use of the 46-S opportunity by fully utilizing all available payload space and campaign deployment time to optimize technology maturation and science return while validating a repeatable, low-cost means to study seasonal trends of PMCs."
^NASA. About NASA Flight Opportunities. nasa.gov. "The Flight Opportunities program within the NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) strategically invests in the growth of the commercial spaceflight market by providing flight opportunities to test space exploration and utilization technologies on commercially available suborbital flight platforms." NASA. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
^Reimuller, Jason. "Project PoSSUM: Citizen-Science Astronautics". Project PoSSUM. Retrieved 2018-04-30. The suborbital tomography experiment is supported by the NASA Flight Opportunities Program as the 'Noctilucent Cloud Imagery and Tomography Experiment,' granted in March 2012.