Space travel brings with it a myriad of adventures and discoveries! And the astronauts who get to travel in space are a rare and special type of person. Take time on National Astronaut Day to celebrate these people who have had some of the most unique experiences possible for a human being by traveling beyond the earth and through space!
History of National Astronaut Day
The first American made his adventure into space travel on May 5, 1961, when Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. made his historic 15 minute suborbital space journey. Since that time, the astronauts and cosmonauts who have continued the expedition into the virtually unknown world of space have been heroes of exploration!
National Astronaut Day was founded to pay honor and respect to the American astronauts of NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). The purpose behind the day is to provide an opportunity for astronauts to share their stories and experiences for the rest of the world. The hope is that these types of stories will encourage and inspire young people to pursue an interest in the space sciences.
The first National Astronaut Day took place in 2017 and the day has been celebrated annually ever since to commemorate that first time of the United States human flight in space. The day was founded by the Uniphi Space Agency, which is a talent and marketing agency that has represented at least 20 different NASA astronauts.
National Astronaut Day Timeline
First astronaut enters space
Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin is the first human to enter into space. 
First American astronaut launches into space
Just a few weeks after the Russians entered space, Alan Shepard becomes the first American in space. 
First men on the moon
Astronauts Neil Armstrong and “Buzz” Aldrin become the first men on the moon. 
First American woman in space
Sally Ride becomes the first American woman in space, on the Space Shuttle Challenger.
Astronauts live on the space station
The first long-term astronaut residents land on the International Space Station.
How to Celebrate National Astronaut Day
National Astronaut Day is a great time to learn more about astronauts while showing respect and admiration for them. Celebrate the day by implementing some of these ideas:
Read Books About Astronauts
One super way to celebrate and enjoy National Astronaut Day would be to get more educated and learn more about who astronauts are and what they do. An excellent option would be to read a biography about an astronaut. Choose from one of these (or read them all!):
- Through the Glass Ceiling to the Stars by Col. Eileen M. Collins (2022). Read the story of this woman who was an aviation pioneer among her peers, as one of the most recognized and admired women in the world.
- First Man, The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen (2005). This biography tells the story of the first man who walked on the moon.
- John Glenn, A Memoir by John Glenn (1999). This autobiography reveals interesting details that could only come from an insider not only to the space program but also for American politics.
- Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space by Lynn Sherr (2014). This definitive biography reveals exclusive highlights from Sally Ride’s family and partner.
Learn Fun Facts About Astronauts
When you celebrate National Astronaut Day, it might be fun to collect some interesting facts that can be shared with friends and family members to raise awareness for the day.
For instance, did you know that astronauts actually have to wear a special kind of diaper? That’s right, these are called ‘maximum absorbency garments’ that need to be worn when they go on long space walks or wear heavy equipment that is difficult to take off and on.
Not only that, but when in space, the bones and muscles of astronauts can easily waste away, so it’s important that astronauts work hard to get enough exercise. Plus, because of microgravity, astronauts can actually get up to 3% taller after spending time in space. They’ll eventually return to their normal height after three to four months back on earth.
Finally, if an astronaut cries in space, their tears don’t roll down their cheeks. Instead, they simply collect on their faces to create large globules of tears. So sad!
Watch a Film About Astronauts
Get involved with the adventure of a lifetime by watching a documentary film showing all about space travel. Or, try watching a movie that was made to portray the unique stories of the various astronauts who have been part of the space program for the last five decades and more, such as one of these:
- Apollo 13 (1995). This movie directed by Ron Howard has an all-star cast including Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon and Bill Paxton, is based on the true story of the Apollo 13 space mission to the moon that was aborted and almost ended in a fatal disaster.
- First Man (2018). Based on the book of the same name by James R. Hansen, this movie follows the story of Neil A. Armstrong (played by Ryan Gosling) leading up to the Apollo 11 mission to the moon in 1969.
- The Right Stuff (1983). This epic historical film drama is based on the non-fiction novel of the same name, which tells the details of the first 15 years of the US space program. Starring Ed Harris and Scott Glenn.
- Lucy in the Sky (2019). Featuring Natalie Portman, this film is loosely based on the life of astronaut Lisa Nowak who was in space in 2006 and spent her time controlling the robotic arms of the International Space Station.
Throw a National Astronaut Day Party
Whether it’s a group of teachers hosting a National Astronaut Day party at school for their students or a gathering of friends who get together to celebrate and honor the day at home, this is a great time to host a party!
Invite guests to wear a space themed costume if they would enjoy dressing up. Serve snacks that are themed around the idea of rocket ships, stars, space, the moon and more. It would be fun to be entertained by playing various games that go along with the theme of astronauts, or watch a film or documentary to help with learning more about who astronauts are and what they do.
Finally, during the party, don’t forget to play a space themed list of music that will keep things moving. Choose songs like Space Oddity (aka Ground Control to Major Tom) by David Bowie; Rocket Man by Elton John; or Man on the Moon by R.E.M.
National Astronaut Day FAQs
How much do astronauts get paid?
An astronaut who works for an agency like NASA may make up to around $100,000 per year.
How many astronauts have died?
Over the past 50 years, 30 astronauts have died while attempting or training for space missions, but only 3 have actually died while in space. 
Do astronauts feel gravity in space?
Yes, astronauts in space still have mass that is impacted by the earth’s gravity, it is just less than when on earth.
Can astronauts see stars from space?
Yes! Astronauts can see the various stars of the Milky Way while in space. 
Are astronauts scientists?
Yes, astronauts typically work as scientists, possessing an education in one of the STEM fields as well as being qualified pilots.