List of Famous Astronauts

This list of famous astronauts includes photos, bios, and other information, when available. Who are the top astronauts in the history of space travel? This list includes the most prominent astronauts, living and dead, both in the American space program and those of other countries. You might also be interested in our lists of astronauts who died in flight, UFO sightings reported by astronauts, or even the hottest male astronauts of NASA. This list of notable astronauts is ordered by their level of prominence, and can be sorted for various bits of information, such as where these historic astronauts were born and what their nationality is. 

No list of astronauts is complete without space travelers like Buzz Aldrin and Sally Ride - one of the most notable female astronaut names. Here, you'll also find astronaut pictures and all kinds of other astronaut information. You might even learn a few new astronaut names!

From reputable, prominent, and well known astronauts to the lesser known astronauts of today, these are some of the most famous American astronauts to ever fly in outer space. They're joined on this list by many foreign astronauts as well - and all have awesome astronaut images for your perusal.

Who are the most famous astronauts ever? What are the names of astronauts throughout history? You'll find them all here, but be careful - you might be inspired to become an astronaut yourself one day!

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  • Neil Alden Armstrong (August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012) was an American astronaut and aeronautical engineer who was the first person to walk on the Moon. He was also a naval aviator, test pilot, and university professor. A graduate of Purdue University, Armstrong studied aeronautical engineering; his college tuition was paid for by the U.S. Navy under the Holloway Plan. He became a midshipman in 1949 and a naval aviator the following year. He saw action in the Korean War, flying the Grumman F9F Panther from the aircraft carrier USS Essex. In September 1951, while making a low bombing run, Armstrong's aircraft was damaged when it collided with an anti-aircraft cable which cut off a large portion of one wing. Armstrong was forced to bail out. After the war, he completed his bachelor's degree at Purdue and became a test pilot at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) High-Speed Flight Station at Edwards Air Force Base in California. He was the project pilot on Century Series fighters and flew the North American X-15 seven times. He was also a participant in the U.S. Air Force's Man in Space Soonest and X-20 Dyna-Soar human spaceflight programs. Armstrong joined the NASA Astronaut Corps in the second group, which was selected in 1962. He made his first spaceflight as command pilot of Gemini 8 in March 1966, becoming NASA's first civilian astronaut to fly in space. During this mission with pilot David Scott, he performed the first docking of two spacecraft; the mission was aborted after Armstrong used some of his re-entry control fuel to stabilize a dangerous roll caused by a stuck thruster. During training for Armstrong's second and last spaceflight as commander of Apollo 11, he had to eject from the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle moments before a crash. On July 20, 1969, Armstrong and Apollo 11 Lunar Module (LM) pilot Buzz Aldrin became the first people to land on the Moon, and the next day they spent two and a half hours outside the spacecraft while Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit in the mission's command module (CM). When Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface, he famously said: "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind." Along with Collins and Aldrin, Armstrong was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon. President Jimmy Carter presented Armstrong with the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978, and Armstrong and his former crewmates received a Congressional Gold Medal in 2009. After he resigned from NASA in 1971, Armstrong taught in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati until 1979. He served on the Apollo 13 accident investigation and on the Rogers Commission, which investigated the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. He acted as a spokesman for several businesses and appeared in advertising for the automotive brand Chrysler starting in January 1979.
  • Buzz Aldrin (born January 20, 1930) is an American engineer and a former astronaut and fighter pilot. Aldrin made three spacewalks as pilot of the 1966 Gemini 12 mission, and as the Apollo Lunar Module pilot on the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, he and mission commander Neil Armstrong were the first two humans to land on the Moon. Born in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, Aldrin graduated third in the class of 1951 from the United States Military Academy at West Point, with a degree in mechanical engineering. He was commissioned into the United States Air Force, and served as a jet fighter pilot during the Korean War. He flew 66 combat missions and shot down two MiG-15 aircraft. After earning a Sc.D. degree in astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Aldrin was selected as a member of NASA's Astronaut Group 3, making him the first astronaut with a doctoral degree. His doctoral thesis was Line-of-Sight Guidance Techniques for Manned Orbital Rendezvous, earning him the nickname "Dr. Rendezvous" from fellow astronauts. His first space flight was in 1966 on Gemini 12 during which he spent over five hours on extravehicular activity. Three years later, Aldrin set foot on the Moon at 03:15:16 on July 21, 1969 (UTC), nineteen minutes after Armstrong first touched the surface, while Command Module Pilot Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit. A Presbyterian elder, Aldrin became the first person to hold a religious ceremony on the Moon when he privately took communion. Upon leaving NASA in 1971, he became Commandant of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School. He retired from the Air Force in 1972, after 21 years of service. His autobiographies Return to Earth (1973), and Magnificent Desolation (2009), recount his struggles with clinical depression and alcoholism in the years after leaving NASA. He continued to advocate for space exploration, particularly a human mission to Mars, and developed the Aldrin cycler, a special spacecraft trajectory that makes travel to Mars more efficient in regard to time and propellant. He has been accorded numerous honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969, and is listed in several Halls of Fame.
  • Sally Kristen Ride (May 26, 1951 – July 23, 2012) was an American astronaut and physicist. Born in Los Angeles, she joined NASA in 1978 and became the first American woman in space in 1983. Ride was the third woman in space overall, after USSR cosmonauts Valentina Tereshkova (1963) and Svetlana Savitskaya (1982). Ride remains the youngest American astronaut to have traveled to space, having done so at the age of 32. After flying twice on the Orbiter Challenger, she left NASA in 1987. Ride worked for two years at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Arms Control, then at the University of California, San Diego as a professor of physics, primarily researching nonlinear optics and Thomson scattering. She served on the committees that investigated the Challenger and Columbia Space Shuttle disasters, the only person to participate in both. Ride died of pancreatic cancer on July 23, 2012.
  • Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin  (9 March 1934 – 27 March 1968) was a Soviet Air Forces pilot and cosmonaut who became the first human to journey into outer space, achieving a major milestone in the Space Race; his capsule Vostok 1 completed one orbit of Earth on 12 April 1961. Gagarin became an international celebrity and was awarded many medals and titles, including Hero of the Soviet Union, his nation's highest honour. Born in the village of Klushino near a town later renamed after him, in his youth Gagarin was a foundryman at a steel plant in Lyubertsy. He later joined the Soviet Air Forces as a pilot and was stationed at the Luostari Air Base, near the Norwegian border, before his selection for the Soviet space programme with five other cosmonauts. Following his spaceflight, Gagarin became deputy training director of the Cosmonaut Training Centre, which was later named after him. He was also elected as a deputy of the Soviet of the Union in 1962 and then to the Soviet of Nationalities, respectively the lower and upper chambers of the Supreme Soviet. Vostok 1 was Gagarin's only spaceflight but he served as the backup crew to the Soyuz 1 mission, which ended in a fatal crash, killing his friend and fellow cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov. Fearing for his life, Soviet officials permanently banned Gagarin from further spaceflights, but he advocated to be allowed to fly regular aircraft which he was permitted to do after completing his education at the Zhukovsky Air Force Engineering Academy on 17 February 1968. Gagarin died five weeks later when the MiG-15 training jet he was piloting with his flight instructor Vladimir Seryogin crashed near the town of Kirzhach.
  • John Herschel Glenn Jr. (July 18, 1921 – December 8, 2016) was a United States Marine Corps aviator, engineer, astronaut, businessman, and politician. He was the first American to orbit the Earth, circling it three times in 1962. Following his retirement from NASA, he served from 1974 to 1999 as a Democratic United States Senator from Ohio, and in 1998 flew into space again at age 77. Before joining NASA, Glenn was a distinguished fighter pilot in World War II, China and Korea. He shot down three MiG-15s, and was awarded six Distinguished Flying Crosses and eighteen Air Medals. In 1957, he made the first supersonic transcontinental flight across the United States. His on-board camera took the first continuous, panoramic photograph of the United States. He was one of the Mercury Seven, military test pilots selected in 1959 by NASA as the nation's first astronauts. On February 20, 1962, Glenn flew the Friendship 7 mission, becoming the first American to orbit the Earth, and the fifth person and third American in space. He received the NASA Distinguished Service Medal in 1962, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978, was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1990, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. Glenn resigned from NASA in January 1964. A member of the Democratic Party, Glenn was first elected to the Senate in 1974 and served for 24 years, until January 1999. In 1998, while still a sitting senator, Glenn flew on Space Shuttle Discovery's STS-95 mission, making him, at age 77, the oldest person to fly in space and the only person to fly in both the Mercury and Space Shuttle programs. Glenn, both the oldest and the last surviving member of the Mercury Seven, died at the age of 95 in 2016. He is survived by his wife Annie Glenn, an advocate for people with disabilities and communication disorders.
  • Charles "Pete" Conrad Jr. (June 2, 1930 – July 8, 1999) (Captain, USN), was an American NASA astronaut, aeronautical engineer, naval officer and aviator, test pilot, and during the Apollo 12 mission became the third man to walk on the Moon. Conrad was selected in NASA's second astronaut class. He set an eight-day space endurance record along with his Command Pilot Gordon Cooper on his first spaceflight, the Gemini 5 mission. Conrad also commanded the Gemini 11 mission. He became the third human to walk on the moon during the Apollo 12 mission. After Apollo, he commanded Skylab 2, the first crewed Skylab mission. On the mission, he and his crewmates repaired significant launch damage to the Skylab space station. For this, President Jimmy Carter awarded him the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978. After he retired from NASA in 1973, he became a vice president of American Television and Communications Company. He went on to work for McDonnell Douglas, as a vice president. During his tenure, he served as vice president of marketing, senior vice president of marketing, staff vice president of international business development, and vice president of project development. Conrad died on July 8, 1999, from internal injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.