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crew member on a U.S. manned spaceflight mission; the Soviet term is cosmonaut. Candidates for manned spaceflight are carefully screened to meet the highest physical and mental standards, and they undergo rigorous training. The early astronauts had all previously been test pilots, but later astronauts have included scientists and physicians, journalists, and politicians. As far as is possible, all conditions to be encountered in space are simulated in ground training. Astronauts are trained to function effectively in cramped quarters while wearing restrictive spacesuits; they are accelerated in giant centrifuges to test their reactions to the inertial forces experienced during liftoff; they are prepared for the physiological disorientation they will experience in space arising from weightlessnessweightlessness,
the absence of any observable effects of gravitation. This condition is experienced by an observer when he and his immediate surroundings are allowed to move freely in the local gravitational field.
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; and they spend long periods in isolation chambers to test their psychological reactions to solitude. Using trainers and mock-ups of actual spacecraft, astronauts rehearse every maneuver from liftoff to recovery, and every conceivable malfunction and difficulty is anticipated and prepared for. In addition to flight training, astronauts are required to have thorough knowledge of all aspects of space sciencespace science,
body of scientific knowledge as it relates to space exploration; it is sometimes also called astronautics. Space science draws on the conventional sciences of physics, chemistry, biology, and engineering, as well as requiring specific research of its own.
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, such as celestial mechanics and rocketry. Concurrent with all other preparation, astronauts must maintain excellent physical condition. Manned spaceflight began on Apr. 8, 1961, when the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the earth. Other prominent cosmonauts included Vladimir Komarov, commander of the first Voskhod spacecraft, Alexis Leonov, first man to walk in space, and Valentina Terechkova, first woman cosmonaut. Prominent American astronauts include Alan B. Shepard, Jr., who made a suborbital flight on May 5, 1961; John H. Glenn, Jr., who was the first American to orbit the earth; Neil A. Armstrong, Jr., Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., and Michael Collins, the crew of the Apollo 11 spacecraft that first landed on the Moon in 1969; and Sally K. Ride, America's first female astronaut.


See T. Wolfe, The Right Stuff (1975); G. L. Burdett and G. A. Soffen, The Human Quest in Space (1987); M. Collins, Carrying Fire (1989).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


(aerospace engineering)
In United States terminology, a person who rides in a space vehicle.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
The setup will enable taikonauts to be stationed in orbit for missions that last more than one year.
Science: By Launching a "Taikonaut", China Enters the.
(43) The first phase, which the Chinese have completed, was the launching of taikonauts into space.
Although he had been scheduled to speak to the taikonaut during the launch and offer congratulations afterward, he was conspicuously missing from the launch site and media events.
The four launches since 1999 of the Shenzhou (Divine or Sacred Vessel) spacecraft intended to launch the taikonauts into orbit evidence substantial Chinese technical achievement and the seriousness of the program.
Liwei was his country's first taikonaut when he piloted China's first manned rocket into space, but why isn't he as well known as the first Russian and American in space?
The "Chinese 'taikonaut' returned safely to Earth ...
The government said the mission was going smoothly and its 'taikonaut' radioed back: 'I feel good.'
Taikonaut: An astronaut in the Chinese space programme
Sending up a 'taikonaut', after the word for space, is a matter of patriotic prestige.
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The best exotic item Xur has for sale this week is the Taikonaut, which has the Air Traffic Control perk that increases heavy ammo drops and gives rocket launchers tracking ability.