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An astronaut is a member of the crew of a spacecraft. Derived from the Latin for "star sailor", "astronaut" means the same as "cosmonaut." For mostly political reasons, American space travellers have been called "astronauts" while those from the Soviet Union and Russia have been called "cosmonauts."

Although Cyrano de Bergerac used the term "astronaut" when writing in the 1600s, the word was new to most people when NASA introduced the Mercury 7 astronauts to the public in 1959.


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