These brave explorers made their mark by leaving Earth, here are five famous astronauts.
Technically a cosmonaut, Gagarin, a Russian, was the first man in space, orbiting the Earth on April 12 of 1961. The achievement was highly symbolic at the height of the Cold War, in the early years of the space race. Gagarin became an international celebrity as a result. Despite his extraordinary achievements, it may have been his short stature (5′ 2″) that ultimately earned him a spot in the tiny cockpit of the first manned flight to space.
Neil Armstrong may be the most famous astronaut of all, as the first man to step foot on the moon, and the speaker of the phrases “The Eagle has landed” and “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. The latter sentence as rendered is a contradiction, leading to much discussion about whether Armstrong actually said “a man”.
Sally Ride, who died in July of 2012 of pancreatic cancer, became the first American woman in space when she flew aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1983. She flew to space again in 1984, on the same crew with Marc Garneau- Canada’s first man in space. She later was a member of the boards of inquiry into the loss of both the Challenger and the Columbia shuttles.
Physician, scientist, photographer, author and educator Roberta Bondar became Canada’s first woman astronaut when she flew aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1992. Bondar was the Payload Specialist for that mission, which was the first to perform laboratory experiments in space. She has since published popular coffee table books of her landscape photographs.
Laika began her short life as a stray dog in Russia in 1954 and ended it as a canine cosmonaut in 1957. Laika went into orbit aboard Sputnik 2, proving a living creature could survive launch and weightlessness. But as no re-entry technology had yet been developed, she was doomed to die in space.