Thursday, November 3, 2011

Star Sailors


Return of the Trivia Series! :)

An astronaut, cosmonaut, taikonaut or spationaute is a person who leaves the planet Earth and travels into space.

Most of the terms are derived from Greek words, nautes (ναύτης), meaning "sailor" and:
English: ástron (στρον) meaning "star"
Russian: kosmos (κόσμος) meaning "universe"
Chinese: taikong (characters) meaning "empty space"
French: spatium (borrowed from) the Latin word for "space"

In the United States, the term "astronaut" is typically applied to an individual when they are accepted into NASA and their training begins, while in Russia, an individual is not labeled a cosmonaut until a successful space flight.

The Chinese and the European terms are perhaps the most aptly descriptive. The Russian and English versions are rather mild misnomers. Humans have not yet "sailed" through any significant portion of the known cosmos, or anywhere near stars.

To be more accurate, America and Russia have many "low-earth-orbit-nauts" (wouldn't LEO-Nauts be a much cooler word??) and "lunar-nauts."

On November 3, 1958, the Soviet Union launched the first Earthling into space to orbit the Earth. Sadly, there was no recovery plan for Laika the dog, and there are many stories and guesses as to how and when she died inside the capsule Sputnik 2 after numerous orbits. Laika's trip proved that it was possible for a living creature to leave Earth’s atmosphere, and also sparked animal rights debates all over the world.

In 1961, Yuri Gagarin earned the distinction of being the first human to fly into space. His annual captain's salary was approximately 640 rubles. Translated into US currency, that worked out to about $18 per year.

Alan Sheppard, the first American in space and the fifth Apollo moon-walker, hit a golf ball on the moon that soared 2,400 feet, or nearly one-half a mile.

Besides golf balls, everyone knows that the lunar landing teams tended to leave experiments, flags and plaques on the moon with each trip. Less well known is that they also left space boots, mission patches, cameras, storage containers, tethers, oxygen filters, metal tools, and many other items future alien archaeologists are sure to find fascinating.