The First Astronauts
The original American astronauts were Walter Schirra, Jr., Donald K. Slayton, John H. Glenn, Jr., M. Scott Carpenter, Jr., Alan B. Shepard, Jr., Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, and L. Gordon Cooper, Jr.
The first six Soviet cosmonauts were Yuri Gagarin (first man in space), German Titov, Andriyan Nikolaev, Pavel Popovich, Valery Bykovsky, and Valentina Tereshkova (first woman in space).
In 2003, China became the third country to launch a space program. On Oct. 15, 2003, Lt. Col. Yang Liwei orbited the Earth 14 times in 21 hours, becoming the first Chinese “taikonaut.”
The European Space Agency (ESA) has 15 member nations, but their astronauts have gone into space aboard Russian or American rockets and shuttles.
In October 1998, John Glenn, the former U.S. senator and legendary astronaut, became the oldest person to fly in space, 36 years after he became the first American to orbit Earth. NASA decided to include an enthusiastic 77-year-old Glenn in its space shuttle Discovery mission.
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