What is in a name? Perceived identity, classification, philosophy, and implied duty of the 'astronaut'

Sara Langston, Sarah Jane Pell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearchpeer-review


Various cultural-specific names and labels are assigned to someone who travels to space. Some familiar names include: astronaut, cosmonaut, taikonaut, yu hang yuan ("space navigating personnel"), vyomanaut, as well as citizen astronaut, civilian astronaut, space tourist and spaceflight participant. But what is in a name? What are the philosophical and cultural values that are applied in identifying 'astronaut'? More importantly, why are we identifying them accordingly by these monikers? What are the implications of these labels, on a social, moral and legal level? Moreover, how do spacefaring individuals identify themselves in comparison with popular perceptions? This paper addresses these questions by identifying selected poetic, cultural and legal definitions and terminologies and highlights relevant distinctions and connections between the contextual spheres and definitions. 'Intersubjectivity' is also reviewed as an approach for formulating future categories and definitions of 'astronauts'. Cumulatively, these terms and definitions serve to address pertinent legal, ethical and social implications and consequences for space-faring individuals at the advent of the Commercial Space Age.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication65th International Astronautical Congress 2014 (IAC 2014)
Subtitle of host publicationOur World Needs Space
Place of PublicationFrance
PublisherInternational Astronautical Federation (IAF)
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781634399869
Publication statusPublished - 2014
EventInternational Astronautical Congress (IAC) 2014 - Toronto, Canada
Duration: 29 Sept 20143 Oct 2014
Conference number: 65th

Publication series

NameProceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC
ISSN (Print)0074-1795


ConferenceInternational Astronautical Congress (IAC) 2014
Abbreviated titleIAC 2014
Internet address

Cite this