An astronaut (from the Greek “astron” (ἄστρον), meaning “star”, and “nautes” (ναύτης), meaning “sailor”) is a person trained, equipped, and deployed by a human spaceflight program to serve as a commander or crew member aboard a spacecraft. Although generally reserved for professional space travelers, the terms are sometimes applied to anyone who travels into space, including scientists, politicians, journalists, and tourists. “Astronaut” technically applies to all human space travelers regardless of nationality or allegiance; however, astronauts fielded by Russia or the Soviet Union are typically known instead as cosmonauts (from the Russian “kosmos” (космос), meaning “universe”, also borrowed from Greek) in order to distinguish them from American or otherwise NATO-oriented space travelers. Comparatively recent developments in manned spaceflight made by China and other East Asian nations have also led to the rise of the term taikonaut (from the Mandarin “tàikōng” (太空), meaning “space”), although its use is somewhat informal and its origin is unclear. Until 2002, astronauts were sponsored and trained exclusively by governments, either by the military or by civilian space agencies. With the suborbital flight of the privately funded SpaceShipOne in 2004, a new category of astronaut was created: the commercial astronaut.
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