Space Facts

Space facts - first American in spaceA few interesting space facts to inspire your triathlon training…

On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard piloted the Freedom 7 mission and became the second person, and the first American, to travel into space. Rocketman Florida will launch on the 52nd anniversary of this historic event.


  • Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1963 as an overlay of NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center. Consisting of 140,000 acres, the refuge provides a wide variety of habitats, including: coastal dunes, saltwater estuaries and marshes, freshwater impoundments, scrub, pine flatwoods and hardwood hammocks, which are home to more than 1,500 species of plants and animals. It is six times the size of Manhattan.
  • KSC the only place where humans have left to go to the Moon.
  • Kennedy Space Center is America’s busiest launch and landing facility.
  • Who was the youngest astronaut to date? – Sally Ride was 32 years, 23 days old when she flew on STS-7 in June 1983.
  • Who was the oldest astronaut to fly on the Space Shuttle? – John Glenn was 77 when he flew on STS-95 in October/November 1998.
  • What is an astronaut’s salary? – Salaries for civilian Astronaut Candidates are based on the Federal Government’s General Schedule pay scale for grades GS-12 through GS-13. Each person’s grade is determined according to his/her academic achievements and experience. Currently, a GS-12 starts at $65,140 per year and a GS-13 can earn up to $100,701 per year.
  • Becoming an astronaut is extremely competitive, with an average of more than 4,000 applicants for about 20 openings every two years.
  • The Space Shuttle Endeavour, the orbiter built to replace the Space Shuttle Challenger, cost approximately $1.7 billion
  • The average cost to launch a Space Shuttle is about $450 million per mission.
  • Like any other object in low-Earth orbit, a Space Shuttle must reach speeds of about 17,500 miles per hour (28,000 kilometers per hour) to remain in orbit.
  • Tracking time: Astronauts go by Mission Elapsed Time, or MET. In this time frame, the clock starts ticking when the astronauts blast off. Minutes accumulate into days, hours, minutes and seconds that have passed since liftoff. The clock stops when the Space Shuttle’s wheels again touch Earth, and the total MET is tabulated.
  • The Milky Way has a radius of about 50,000 light years.
  • NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) is an orbiting space telescope that will observe galaxies in ultraviolet light across 10 billion years of cosmic history.
  • Sonic booms are the result of an aircraft or other type of aerospace vehicle flying overhead faster than the speed of sound.
  • Although not visible to the naked eye from Earth, the American flag is still on the Moon.
  • Temp in space: Near the Earth and the Moon, objects in direct sunlight can heat up to temperatures of about 250 degrees F (121 degrees C). In the shade, objects can cool down to around -250 degrees F (-156 degrees C).
  • When an astronaut returns home they will be 0.000023 seconds younger for each day they spend in orbit. For a one-year stay on the International Space Station, the returning astronauts will be about 0.0085 seconds younger.
  • NASA was founded by President Eisenhower in 1958 and the NASA Launch Operations Center in east Florida was opened in 1962.
  • Every manned mission to space has departed from this facility (KCS).
  • This facility was later renamed in honor of President Kennedy, who set America on the path to land on the moon.
  • 1.5 million guests from around the world experience their very own space adventure by exploring the exciting past, present and future of America’s space program at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

*Information courtesy of Kennedy Space Center.