The stars, planets, and other celestial bodies have fascinated people since the first humans looked at the night sky. Some early cultures believed that gods lived in the heavens. Others supposed that the passing of a comet or the sight of a solar eclipse was a sign of good or bad things to come. The Mayans, ancient Chinese, and other early cultures used astronomy to keep track of time and try to predict the future. And the stars and planets have been used since prehistory to navigate on land and water.

As research methods and early astronomical observation tools were developed, scientists

ASTRONAUTS AND COSMONAUTS What is the difference between an astronaut and cosmonaut? Absolutely nothing! They are simply different words used by different countries to describe the same job. In the United States, a person who works in space is an astronaut. In Russia, they are called a cosmonaut. As more countries send astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), additional country- specific names have been developed for astronauts. For example, Chinese astronauts are known as taikonauts, while those in France are known as spationautes (although they also may be referred to as astronauts).

began trying to learn facts about the heavens. In the 1960s, the idea of human exploration of space became a reality. The United States and Soviet Union competed to launch the first man into space. (At the time, both countries did not allow women to become astronauts.) On April 12, 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space. Just 23 days later, American astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American to journey to space.



Made with FlippingBook Online newsletter creator