The word Astronaut literally means Star sailor

An astronaut or cosmonaut is a person trained by a human spaceflight program to command, pilot, or serve as a crew member of a spacecraft.

In English-speaking nations, a professional space traveler is called an astronaut. The term derives from the Greek words ástron , meaning “star”, and nautes , meaning “sailor”. The first known use of the term “astronaut” in the modern sense was by Neil R. Jones in his short story “The Death’s Head Meteor” in 1930. The word itself had been known earlier. For example, in Percy Greg’s 1880 book Across the Zodiac, “astronaut” referred to a spacecraft. In Les Navigateurs de l’Infini (1925) of J.-H. Rosny aîné, the word astronautique (astronautic) was used. The word may have been inspired by “aeronaut”, an older term for an air traveler first applied (in 1784) to balloonists. An early use in a non-fiction publication is Eric Frank Russell’s poem “The Astronaut” in the November 1934 Bulletin of the British Interplanetary Society.


The first known formal use of the term astronautics in the scientific community was the establishment of the annual International Astronautical Congress in 1950 and the subsequent founding of the International Astronautical Federation the following year.

NASA applies the term astronaut to any crew member aboard NASA spacecraft bound for Earth orbit or beyond. NASA also uses the term as a title for those selected to join its Astronaut Corps. The European Space Agency similarly uses the term astronaut for members of its Astronaut Corps