Astronaut Fact Book
“It is with an iron will that they embark on the most
daring of all endeavors . . . . to meet the shadowy
future without fear and conquer the unknown.
— Ferdinand Magellan, circa 1520.
National Aeronautics and
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) selected the first group of astronauts in
1959. From 500 candidates having the required jet aircraft flight experience and engineering training
as well as height below 5 feet 11 inches, 7 military men became the Nation's first astronauts. The
second and third groups chosen included civilians who had extensive flying experience. By 1964,
requirements had changed, and emphasis was placed on academic qualifications; in 1965, 6 scientist
astronauts were selected from a group of 400 applicants who had a Doctorate or equivalent
experience in the natural sciences, medicine, or engineering. The group named in 1978 was the first
of space shuttle flight crews and since then, 14 additional groups have been selected with a mix of
pilots and mission specialists.
There are currently 95 astronauts, 11 astronaut candidates and 46 management astronauts in the
program; 132 astronauts have retired or resigned; and 36 are deceased.
Though most of the information in this document pertains only to U.S. Astronauts, several sections
are included to provide information about the international astronauts and Russian trained
Cosmonauts who are currently partners with the U.S. Space Program participating in the International
Space Station endeavor. The non-U.S. information presented here was gathered from the
biographies provided by the various space agencies with which these individuals are affiliated.
Payload specialists are career scientists or engineers selected by their employer or country for their
expertise in conducting a specific experiment or commercial venture on a space shuttle mission.
Information about them is not included in the Astronaut Fact