How did Kalpana Chawala come to NASA

Space terms easily explained Astro-, cosmo- or taikonaut and why actually space train station?

Other names in Asia: Vyomanaut and Angkasawan

The next two terms are far from easy to remember. The Indian space travelers are called vyomanauts. That derives from the words naut and vyomagami from Sanskrit - the different varieties of Old Indian. Vyomagami means "something that moves in the sky".

The first female space traveler of Indian descent was trained by NASA and was a member of the last Columbia crew. Kalpana Chawla and the rest of the "Space Shuttle" crew were killed in the 2003 Columbia disaster. Since 2006 India has been pursuing its own manned space program: Gaganyaan (san. "Sky vehicle"). And since 2010 the future Indian spacemen have been called vyomanauts.

Malaysia also has its own term for its spacemen: Angkasawan - it is derived from the Malay word angkasa and stands for the word space. Strictly speaking, however, they were cosmonauts, since they were on board a Russian mission in 2007. However, the Malaysian space travelers should be different from other space travelers.

Spationaut, Austronaut, Euronaut and Afronaut

Then there are terms that have not really caught on. The French made-up word Spationaut is based on the same-language term espace for space. The Austrian media nicknamed Franz Artur Viehböck Austronaut, who spent eight days in space in October 1991.

At times the media have named the European space travelers Euronauts. However, the term was just as unsuccessful as the Afronaut - the African spaceman. It all sounds like a whole bunch of new terms, but don't worry: if you can't think of the right term, just use space traveler - that always works.

Space train station or space airport

Whether cosmonaut or astronaut: They get into space via launch sites. But these are sometimes called space train stations or space airports. The European Space Agency ESA mainly uses the term space airport, "because it is a launch site for launch vehicles," the ESA press office informs us.

A distinction nevertheless makes sense, as the former German astronaut Ulrich Walter made clear in an interview with Spiegel in 2019: "A space station is by definition a facility from which rockets are launched vertically from a launch pad."

The situation is different at Spaceport America in New Mexico, which is operated by Virgin Orbit and Virgin Galactic. Airplanes take off there and are loaded with a launcher. At a certain height, this is thrown off and an air launch - take off from the air - is initiated. Something similar is planned for the airport in Rostock-Laage. Walter "would not refer to such a facility as a spaceport, but of a space airport".

Horizontal take-offs are thus carried out from space airports. Classic vertical launches are launched from space train stations - which are called cosmodromes in Russia and China. And in case you get confused: Spaceport always works.