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Astronaut-politicians are those individuals who have entered politics after traveling to space as an astronaut. Even with the increasing number of individuals who have flown in space, astronauts still maintain a wide degree of public recognition, and those interested in pursuing a career in politics have been able to take advantage of their renown to enter politics at higher levels of elected office.

North America[edit]

United States[edit]

American John Glenn, one of the Mercury Seven selected in 1959 by NASA became the first American astronaut to orbit the earth when he flew the Mercury-Atlas 6 named Friendship 7 for three earth orbits on February 20, 1962, and the first astronaut elected to Congress when he won a Senate seat in 1974. He's been the most successful American Astronaut-politician thus far, serving 25 years in the Senate. He left the manned space program in 1964 and announced that he would challenge incumbent U.S. Senator Stephen M. Young in the Democratic primary at the end of Young's first term in office. Criticism of "astronaut turned politician" Glenn immediately followed his announcement, with critics taking issue with the "undesirable precedent in astronauts' capitalizing on their fame to enter political roles" and some grumbling that Glenn did not follow the standard "step-by-step progression up the political ladder" by "aspiring immediately for the Senate".[1] Speculation also ran strong that then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy had promoted Glenn's electoral bid as a means to enhance the Democrat's chances in Ohio. Asked the question while on an official trip in Tokyo, Kennedy would offer no comment beyond stating that he had had "a number of conversations with John Glenn over his future". At the time, fellow Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper was cited as having met with Democratic Party leaders in Oklahoma to consider a Senate run there.[1] In an editorial shortly after the announcement, The Toledo Blade took exception to the fact that Glenn "presumes too much on his popularity as a spaceman".[2] A slip and fall in a bathtub in March 1964 ultimately led to Glenn's withdrawal from the race.[3] Glenn ran again in 1970, losing the Ohio Senate primary to Howard Metzenbaum. In 1974, Glenn won election to the Senate in a special election to fill the seat of William B. Saxbe.[4] In 1984, Glenn sought the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. He withdrew from the race in March 1984, after winning only two delegates and finishing in 6th place.[5] Glenn returned to space on October 29, 1998 aboard Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-95) while still a sitting Senator. The next year he retired from Congress.

Two Apollo astronauts were elected to the United States Congress. "Astronaut turned Sen. Harrison 'Jack' Schmitt",[6] whose participation on the Apollo 17 mission made him the only geologist to walk on the Moon, resigned from NASA in August 1975 and shortly thereafter ran as a Republican, winning the New Mexico Senate seat in 1976 over two-term Democratic incumbent, Joseph Montoya by a margin of 57% to 42%, despite being described by The New York Times as a "political neophyte".[7] Jack Swigert, who had flown on the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, was elected in November 1982 to the United States House of Representatives representing Colorado, based on a plan he developed that "evolved from his training as an astronaut and the success of the Apollo exploration of the Moon", but died before taking office.[8]

NASA's Shuttle program has produced American and foreign politicians. In 1985, Senator Jake Garn went into space aboard the STS-51-D flight as a payload specialist and in 1986 Rep. Bill Nelson of Florida became the second sitting member of Congress to travel into space aboard Space Shuttle Columbia's STS-61-C mission, also as a payload specialist. In 2012, shuttle astronaut José M. Hernández ran for Congress in California's 10th District, he won the Democratic nomination, but lost to incumbent Jeff Denham.[9]


Canadian astronaut Marc Garneau became the first Canadian in space, when he flew in 1984 on the Space Shuttle Challenger on mission STS-41-G as a payload specialist. After two other shuttle flights, Garneau entered politics and won a seat to the Parliament of Canada in 2008.[10] Garneau was appointed as Minister of transport by Prime minister Justin Trudeau on November 4, 2015.

Canadian Julie Payette has completed two spaceflights, STS-96 and STS-127, logging more than 25 days in space. She served as chief astronaut for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and has served in other roles for both NASA and CSA, such as capsule communicator. Payette was sworn in as the 29th Governor General of Canada on October 2, 2017.[11]


In Russia, cosmonaut Yuri Baturin, described by in 2000 as "Russia's only cosmonaut/politician", became a senior aide to President Boris Yeltsin and served as one of that nation's leading space policy advisors.[12] All four female Russian astronauts have gone on to serve in the State Duma. Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, entered politics in the days of the Soviet Union, serving in parliament and as a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.[13] Svetlana Savitskaya, the second woman in space, was elected to the State Duma in 1996 and currently serves as Deputy Chair of the Committee on Defense, in addition to being a member of the Commission on Safety, Defense, and the Fight Against Crime in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Union of Belarus and Russia.[14] Yelena Kondakova served in the Duma as a member of the Fatherland - All Russia party, and after the party dissolved, as member of United Russia. However she left United Russia in 2011 as a result of her dissatisfaction with results of internal party elections.[15] Most recently, Yelena Serova, the first female Russian cosmonaut to visit the International Space Station, was elected to serve in the Duma in 2016.[16]


Two individuals have made the journey to space and were later elected to become a Member of the European Parliament. Cosmonaut Vladimír Remek, who flew into space on Soyuz 28 in 1978 from Czechoslovakia as the first non-American / non-Soviet in space, was elected as an MEP in 2004 from the Czech Republic as an independent candidate for the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, and was re-elected in 2009, with Deutsche Welle describing how "his huge communist-era fame contributed to his success at the ballot box". Italian astronaut Umberto Guidoni flew on Space Shuttle mission STS-75 on Columbia and became the first European to visit the International Space Station when he was part of STS-100 aboard Endeavour in 2001, and was elected in June 2004 to the European Parliament, where he sits with the European United Left–Nordic Green Left.[17] Ms. Claudie Haigneré, a French "spationaute", has been junior minister for Research and New Technologies, and junior minister for European Affairs, in a government led by Mr Jean-Pierre Raffarin, but has never held elected office.

Astronaut and veteran of two space missions Pedro Duque has been named Minister of Science, Innovation and Universities of Spain in May 2018.[18] He earned a degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) in 1986.


  1. ^ a b Via The New York Times. "From Orbiting The Earth To The Arena of Politics", St. Petersburg Times, January 18, 1964. Accessed July 28, 2009.
  2. ^ Jones, David R. "OHIO VOTERS SPLIT ON RACE BY GLENN; Many Oppose Astronaut's Entry Into Senate Test", The New York Times, January 22, 1964. Accessed July 28, 2009.
  3. ^ Staff. "The Astrowives in Ohio", Time (magazine), March 27, 1964. Accessed July 28, 2009.
  4. ^ via The Associated Press. "Wallace Wins Big; John Glenn Scores in Ohio", The Evening Independent, May 8, 1974. Accessed July 28, 2009.
  5. ^ SHRIBMAN, David (17 March 1984). "WITH FEW WORDS, GLENN WITHDRAW". Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  6. ^ Morris, Dick. "Dick Morris: Negative Campaigning Is Good for America", U.S. News & World Report, October 6, 2008. Accessed July 28, 2009.
  7. ^ Lichtenstein, Grace. "NEW MEXICO RACE CLOSE FOR MONTOYA; Democratic Senator Is Stressing Seniority in Fight With Schmitt, Former Apollo Astronaut", The New York Times, October 24, 1976. Accessed July 28, 2009.
  8. ^ Amole, Gene. "AN AMERICAN HERO: THE REAL SWIGERT", The Rocky Mountain News, July 13, 1995. Accessed July 29, 2009.
  9. ^ Pearlman, Robert Z. "Astronaut Jose Hernandez Loses to Farmer in Congressional Race". Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  10. ^ Staff. "Key wins and losses", The Toronto Star, October 14, 2008. Accessed July 28, 2009.
  11. ^ MacCharles, Tonda (October 2, 2017). "Julie Payette becomes Canada's 29th Governor General". Toronto Star. Retrieved October 2, 2017.
  12. ^ Karash Yuri. "Putin Visits Russia's Star City " Archived August 30, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.,, March 3, 2000. Accessed July 28, 2009.
  13. ^ Boustany, Nora. "A Down-to-Earth Highflier", The Washington Post, March 24, 2006. Accessed July 28, 2009.
  14. ^ "Савицкая Светлана Евгеньевна". Коммунистическая партия Российской Федерации. Retrieved December 10, 2016.
  15. ^ "Космонавт Е. Кондакова обвинила "ЕР" в фальсификациях на праймериз". РБК. Retrieved 2016-12-11.
  16. ^ "Сураев и Серова, избранные депутатами ГД, уволены из отряда космонавтов". РИА Новости. Retrieved 2016-12-11.
  17. ^ Willoughby, Ian. "Beloved Czech cosmonaut a candidate for European Parliament", Deutsche Welle, June 1, 2009. Accessed July 29, 2009.
  18. ^ El País. Pedro Duque, ministro de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades June 6, 2018. Accessed Jun 6, 2018.