The space race gave birth, or at least made a household name, to two of the most respected professions ever. The Cosmonaut and the Astronaut. While both are very similar there are a few differences between them.
The most obvious reason is that Cosmonauts were from the Soviet Union during the space race, whereas Astronauts represented the United States of America. The words both mean the same thing in English, but in Greek they mean different things. Cosmonaut: Explorers of the Universe. Astronaut: Explorers of the Stars.
The names are simply a way to differentiate between the nationalities, especially during the Space Race, a key chapter in the Cold War. English speaking countries call them Astronauts and East European Countries call them Cosmonauts. However, other languages can have completely different words for the Space Explorer, such as China’s Taikonauts.
The differences of the two were set apart at the birth of Space Exploration, the Space Race, through the many breakthroughs both sides had.
During the space race; which started in 1957; the Astronauts and the Cosmonauts both made different histories for themselves. In 1957 the Cosmonauts launched Sputnik, the first ever artificial satellite. Also in 1957 the Cosmonauts sent Laika, a rescued dog, in to space. Laika was the first living mammal sent from Earth in to space. Sadly Laika died a few hours in to launch, but this was covered up until 2002. In 1959 the Soviets launched Luna 2 which was the first space probe to ever hit the moon. Blazing ahead the Cosmonauts also got the first man ever in space, Yuri Gagarin. He made an orbit of the earth and then returned to earth. The first space walk was also a Cosmonaut achievement when Alexei Leonov walked outside the Voskhod 2 for ten minutes. Valantina Tereshkova became the first woman in space in 1963, she was a Cosmonaut.
For the Astronauts during the space race a lot of catching up occurred. In 1958 the US launches it’s first satellite, Explorer I and 1958 was also the year the National Aeronautica and Space Administration (known as NASA) was made. To compete with Yuri Gagarin, Alan Sheperd Jr. become the first American in space in 1961, the same year as Gagarin. However, the Astronauts – in the opinion of many people – won the space race on July 20th, 1969 when Neil Armstrong said those famous words.
“That’s one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.”
To conclude, there are far more similarities between the Cosmonauts and the Astronauts than there are differences, but it’s those years during the Cold War that set them apart and made history for the whole of Planet Earth.