The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary American Astronauts of all time. This list of famous American Astronauts is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of American Astronauts.
With an HPI of 87.58, Neil Armstrong is the most famous American Astronaut. His biography has been translated into 151 different languages on wikipedia.
Neil Alden Armstrong (August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012) was an American astronaut, aeronautical engineer, and the first human being to walk on the Moon. He was also a naval aviator, test pilot, and university professor. Armstrong was born and raised in Wapakoneta, Ohio. A graduate of Purdue University, he studied aeronautical engineering; his college tuition was paid for by the U.S. Navy under the Holloway Plan. He became a midshipman in 1949 and a naval aviator the following year. He saw action in the Korean War, flying the Grumman F9F Panther from the aircraft carrier USS Essex. In September 1951, while making a low bombing run, Armstrong's aircraft was damaged when it collided with an anti-aircraft cable, strung across a valley, which cut off a large portion of one wing. Armstrong was forced to bail out. After the war, he completed his bachelor's degree at Purdue and became a test pilot at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) High-Speed Flight Station at Edwards Air Force Base in California. He was the project pilot on Century Series fighters and flew the North American X-15 seven times. He was also a participant in the U.S. Air Force's Man in Space Soonest and X-20 Dyna-Soar human spaceflight programs. Armstrong joined the NASA Astronaut Corps in the second group, which was selected in 1962. He made his first spaceflight as command pilot of Gemini 8 in March 1966, becoming NASA's first civilian astronaut to fly in space. During this mission with pilot David Scott, he performed the first docking of two spacecraft; the mission was aborted after Armstrong used some of his re-entry control fuel to stabilize a dangerous roll caused by a stuck thruster. During training for Armstrong's second and last spaceflight as commander of Apollo 11, he had to eject from the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle moments before a crash. On July 20, 1969, Armstrong and Apollo 11 Lunar Module (LM) pilot Buzz Aldrin became the first people to land on the Moon, and the next day they spent two and a half hours outside the Lunar Module Eagle spacecraft while Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit in the Apollo Command Module Columbia. When Armstrong first stepped onto the lunar surface, he famously said: "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind." It was broadcast live to an estimated 530 million viewers worldwide. Apollo 11 effectively proved US victory in the Space Race, by fulfilling a national goal proposed in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy "of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth" before the end of the decade. Along with Collins and Aldrin, Armstrong was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon and received the 1969 Collier Trophy. President Jimmy Carter presented him with the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978, he was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1979, and with his former crewmates received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009. After he resigned from NASA in 1971, Armstrong taught in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati until 1979. He served on the Apollo 13 accident investigation and on the Rogers Commission, which investigated the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. In 2012, Armstrong died due to complications resulting from coronary bypass surgery, at the age of 82.
With an HPI of 79.13, Buzz Aldrin is the 2nd most famous American Astronaut. His biography has been translated into 94 different languages.
Buzz Aldrin (; born Edwin Eugene Aldrin Jr.; January 20, 1930) is an American former astronaut, engineer and fighter pilot. He made three spacewalks as pilot of the 1966 Gemini 12 mission, and, as Lunar Module Eagle pilot on the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, he and mission commander Neil Armstrong were the first two people to land on the Moon. He is the last surviving crew member of Apollo 11. Born in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, Aldrin graduated third in the class of 1951 from the United States Military Academy at West Point, with a degree in mechanical engineering. He was commissioned into the United States Air Force, and served as a jet fighter pilot during the Korean War. He flew 66 combat missions and shot down two MiG-15 aircraft. After earning a Doctor of Science degree in astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Aldrin was selected as a member of NASA's Astronaut Group 3, making him the first astronaut with a doctoral degree. His doctoral thesis was Line-of-Sight Guidance Techniques for Manned Orbital Rendezvous, earning him the nickname "Dr. Rendezvous" from fellow astronauts. His first space flight was in 1966 on Gemini 12 during which he spent over five hours on extravehicular activity. Three years later, Aldrin set foot on the Moon at 03:15:16 on July 21, 1969 (UTC), nineteen minutes after Armstrong first touched the surface, while command module pilot Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit. A Presbyterian elder, Aldrin became the first person to hold a religious ceremony on the Moon when he privately took communion. Apollo 11 effectively proved US victory in the Space Race, by fulfilling a national goal proposed in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy "of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth" before the end of the decade. Upon leaving NASA in 1971, Aldrin became Commandant of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School. He retired from the Air Force in 1972, after 21 years of service. His autobiographies Return to Earth (1973), and Magnificent Desolation (2009), recount his struggles with clinical depression and alcoholism in the years after leaving NASA. He continues to advocate for space exploration, particularly a human mission to Mars, and developed the Aldrin cycler, a special spacecraft trajectory that makes travel to Mars more efficient in regard to time and propellant. He has been accorded numerous honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969.
With an HPI of 78.79, Gene Cernan is the 3rd most famous American Astronaut. His biography has been translated into 54 different languages.
Eugene Andrew Cernan (; March 14, 1934 – January 16, 2017) was an American astronaut, naval aviator, electrical engineer, aeronautical engineer, and fighter pilot. During the Apollo 17 mission, Cernan became the eleventh man to walk on the Moon. As he re-entered the Apollo Lunar Module after Harrison Schmitt on their third and final lunar excursion, he is the last man to walk on the Moon as of 2022. Before becoming an astronaut, Cernan graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Purdue University and joined the U.S. Navy. After flight training, he received his naval aviator wings and served as a fighter pilot. In 1963 he received a Master of Science degree in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. Achieving the rank of captain, he retired from the Navy in 1976. Cernan traveled into space three times and to the Moon twice: as pilot of Gemini 9A in June 1966, as lunar module pilot of Apollo 10 in May 1969, and as commander of Apollo 17 in December 1972, the final Apollo lunar landing. Cernan was also a backup crew member of the Gemini 12, Apollo 7 and Apollo 14 space missions.
With an HPI of 76.13, Pete Conrad is the 4th most famous American Astronaut. His biography has been translated into 46 different languages.
Charles "Pete" Conrad Jr. (June 2, 1930 – July 8, 1999) was an American NASA astronaut, aeronautical engineer, naval officer and aviator, and test pilot, and commanded the Apollo 12 space mission, on which he became the third person to walk on the Moon. Conrad was selected in NASA's second astronaut class in 1962. Before becoming an astronaut, Conrad earned his bachelor's degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Princeton University—being the first Ivy League astronaut—and joined the U.S. Navy. In 1954 he received his naval aviator wings, served as a fighter pilot and, after graduating from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School (Class 20), as a project test pilot. In 1959 he was an astronaut candidate for Project Mercury. Conrad set an eight-day space endurance record in 1965 along with his Command Pilot Gordon Cooper on his first spaceflight, Gemini 5. Later, Conrad commanded Gemini 11 in 1966, and Apollo 12 in 1969. After Apollo, he commanded Skylab 2, the first crewed Skylab mission, in 1973. On the mission, he and his crewmates repaired significant launch damage to the Skylab space station. For this, President Jimmy Carter awarded him the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978. After Conrad retired from NASA and the Navy in 1973, he became a vice president of American Television and Communications Company. He went on to work for McDonnell Douglas, as a vice president. During his tenure, he served as vice president of marketing, senior vice president of marketing, staff vice president of international business development, and vice president of project development. He died on July 8, 1999, from internal injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.
With an HPI of 73.87, Alan Shepard is the 5th most famous American Astronaut. His biography has been translated into 60 different languages.
Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. (November 18, 1923 – July 21, 1998) was an American astronaut, naval aviator, test pilot, and businessman. In 1961, he became the second person and the first American to travel into space, and in 1971, he walked on the Moon. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Shepard saw action with the surface navy during World War II. He became a naval aviator in 1946, and a test pilot in 1950. He was selected as one of the original NASA Mercury Seven astronauts in 1959, and in May 1961 he made the first crewed Project Mercury flight, Mercury-Redstone 3, in a spacecraft he named Freedom 7. His craft entered space, but was not capable of achieving orbit. He became the second person, and the first American, to travel into space, and the first space traveler to manually control the orientation of his craft. In the final stages of Project Mercury, Shepard was scheduled to pilot the Mercury-Atlas 10 (MA-10), which was planned as a three-day mission. He named Mercury Spacecraft 15B Freedom 7 II in honor of his first spacecraft, but the mission was canceled. Shepard was designated as the commander of the first crewed Project Gemini mission, but was grounded in 1963 due to Ménière's disease, an inner-ear ailment that caused episodes of extreme dizziness and nausea. This was surgically corrected in 1969, and in 1971, Shepard commanded the Apollo 14 mission, piloting the Apollo Lunar Module Antares. At age 47, he became the fifth, the oldest, and the only one of the Mercury Seven astronauts to walk on the Moon. During the mission, he hit two golf balls on the lunar surface. Shepard was Chief of the Astronaut Office from November 1963 to July 1969 (the approximate period of his grounding), and from June 1971 until his retirement from the United States Navy and NASA on August 1, 1974. He was promoted to rear admiral on August 25, 1971, the first astronaut to reach that rank.
With an HPI of 73.11, John Glenn is the 6th most famous American Astronaut. His biography has been translated into 71 different languages.
John Herschel Glenn Jr. (July 18, 1921 – December 8, 2016) was a United States Marine Corps aviator, engineer, astronaut, businessman, and politician. He was the third American in space, and the first American to orbit the Earth, circling it three times in 1962. Following his retirement from NASA, he served from 1974 to 1999 as a Democratic United States Senator from Ohio; in 1998, he flew into space again at age 77. Before joining NASA, Glenn was a distinguished fighter pilot in World War II, China and Korea. He shot down three MiG-15s, and was awarded six Distinguished Flying Crosses and eighteen Air Medals. In 1957, he made the first supersonic transcontinental flight across the United States. His on-board camera took the first continuous, panoramic photograph of the United States. He was one of the Mercury Seven, military test pilots selected in 1959 by NASA as the nation's first astronauts. On February 20, 1962, Glenn flew the Friendship 7 mission, becoming the first American to orbit the Earth, the third American and fifth person in history to be in space. He received the NASA Distinguished Service Medal in 1962, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978, was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1990, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. Glenn resigned from NASA in January 1964. A member of the Democratic Party, Glenn was first elected to the Senate in 1974 and served for 24 years, until January 1999. Aged 77, Glenn flew on Space Shuttle Discovery's STS-95 mission, making him the oldest person to enter Earth orbit, and the only person to fly in both the Mercury and the Space Shuttle programs. Glenn, both the oldest and the last surviving member of the Mercury Seven, died at the age of 95 on December 8, 2016.
With an HPI of 72.75, Dennis Tito is the 7th most famous American Astronaut. His biography has been translated into 45 different languages.
Dennis Anthony Tito (born August 8, 1940) is an American engineer, entrepreneur and astronaut. In mid-2001, he became the first space tourist to fund his own trip into space, when he spent nearly eight days in orbit as a crew member of ISS EP-1, a visiting mission to the International Space Station. This mission was launched by the spacecraft Soyuz TM-32, and was landed by Soyuz TM-31.
With an HPI of 71.44, Jim Lovell is the 8th most famous American Astronaut. His biography has been translated into 43 different languages.
James Arthur Lovell Jr. (; born March 25, 1928) is an American retired astronaut, naval aviator, test pilot and mechanical engineer. In 1968, as command module pilot of Apollo 8, he became, with Frank Borman and William Anders, one of the first three astronauts to fly to and orbit the Moon. He then commanded the Apollo 13 lunar mission in 1970 which, after a critical failure en route, circled the Moon and returned safely to Earth. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in the class of 1952, Lovell flew F2H Banshee night fighters. This included a Western Pacific deployment aboard the aircraft carrier USS Shangri-La. In January 1958, he entered a six-month test pilot training course at the Naval Air Test Center at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, with Class 20 and graduated at the top the class. He was then assigned to was assigned to Electronics Test, working with radar, and in 1960 he became the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II program manager. The following year he became a flight instructor and safety engineering officer at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and completed Aviation Safety School at the University of Southern California. Lovell was not selected by NASA as one of the Mercury Seven astronauts due to a temporarily high bilirubin count but was accepted in September 1962 as one of the second group of astronauts, needed for the Gemini and Apollo programs. Prior to Apollo, Lovell flew in space on two Gemini missions, Gemini 7 (with Borman) in 1965 and Gemini 12 in 1966. He was the first person to fly into space four times. One of 24 people to have flown to the Moon, Lovell was the first to fly to it twice. He is a recipient of the Congressional Space Medal of Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He co-authored the 1994 book Lost Moon, on which the 1995 film Apollo 13, in which he appeared in a cameo, was based.
With an HPI of 70.38, John Young is the 9th most famous American Astronaut. His biography has been translated into 49 different languages.
John Watts Young (September 24, 1930 – January 5, 2018) was an American astronaut, naval officer and aviator, test pilot, and aeronautical engineer. He became the ninth person to walk on the Moon as commander of the Apollo 16 mission in 1972. He flew on four different classes of spacecraft: Gemini, the Apollo command and service module, the Apollo Lunar Module, and the Space Shuttle. Before becoming an astronaut, Young received his Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and joined the U.S. Navy. After serving at sea during the Korean War he became a naval aviator, and graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. As a test pilot, he set several world time-to-climb records. Young retired from the Navy in 1976 with the rank of captain. In 1962, Young was selected as a member of NASA Astronaut Group 2. He flew on the first crewed Gemini mission in 1965, and then commanded the 1966 Gemini 10 mission. In 1969, he flew as the command module pilot on Apollo 10. After that, he commanded Apollo 16, and spent three days on the lunar surface exploring the Descartes Highlands with Charles Duke. Young also commanded STS-1 in 1981, the Space Shuttle program's first launch, and STS-9 in 1983, both of which were on Columbia. Young served as Chief of the Astronaut Office from 1974 to 1987, and retired from NASA in 2004. He died in January 2018 at the age of 87.
With an HPI of 70.03, David Scott is the 10th most famous American Astronaut. His biography has been translated into 41 different languages.
David Randolph Scott (born June 6, 1932) is an American retired test pilot and NASA astronaut who was the seventh person to walk on the Moon. The commander of Apollo 15, Scott was selected as an astronaut as part of the third group in 1963. Scott flew to space three times, and is one of four surviving Moon walkers and the last surviving crew member of Apollo 15. Before becoming an astronaut, Scott graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and joined the Air Force. After serving as a fighter pilot in Europe, he graduated from the Air Force Experimental Test Pilot School (Class 62C) and the Aerospace Research Pilot School (Class IV). Scott retired from the Air Force in 1975 with the rank of colonel, and more than 5,600 hours of logged flying time. As an astronaut, Scott made his first flight into space as pilot of the Gemini 8 mission, along with Neil Armstrong, in March 1966, spending just under eleven hours in low Earth orbit. He would have been the second American astronaut to walk in space had Gemini 8 not made an emergency abort. Scott then spent ten days in orbit in March 1969 as Command Module Pilot of Apollo 9, a mission that extensively tested the Apollo spacecraft, along with Commander James McDivitt and Lunar Module Pilot Rusty Schweickart. After backing up Apollo 12, Scott made his third and final flight into space as commander of the Apollo 15 mission, the fourth crewed lunar landing and the first J mission. Scott and James Irwin remained on the Moon for three days. Following their return to Earth, Scott and his crewmates fell from favor with NASA after it was disclosed they had carried 400 unauthorized postal covers to the Moon. After serving as director of NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in California, Scott retired from the agency in 1977. Since then, he has worked on a number of space-related projects and served as consultant for several films about the space program, including Apollo 13.
Pantheon has 300 people classified as astronauts born between 1921 and 1979. Of these 300, 236 (78.67%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living astronauts include Buzz Aldrin, Dennis Tito, and Jim Lovell. The most famous deceased astronauts include Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan, and Pete Conrad. As of October 2020, 9 new astronauts have been added to Pantheon including Samuel T. Durrance, Donald R. McMonagle, and Lawrence J. DeLucas.
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Which Astronauts were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Astronauts since 1700.