Space quotes are an amazing inspiration for anyone looking to look for incredible opportunities outside of what we already know. They define who we are as humans and also highlight the things we’ve achieved. Let’s look at some of the most famous space quotes and break down their significance.
“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” – Neil Armstrong
This single quote is perhaps one of the most iconic and profound of all time. It was declared from a place no human had ever been at the height of the space race and in the midst of a cold war. In many ways, it was a victory for the “good guys” and the first leap into a combined effort to unlock the secrets of space.
In case you’re not aware, Neil Armstrong was the commander of the Apollo 11 mission that put a man on the Moon for the first time in history. Armstrong spoke those words as he stepped down from the ladder and onto the Lunar surface for the first time.
In this declaration, he stated that a single step was the culmination of years of effort and the answer to President Kennedy’s oath. The Wright brothers had flown a few hundred feet in 1900, and less than 70 years later, we had a man on the Moon.
This quote is often misspoken without the word “a”, as radio static prevents the word from being heard clearly. However, without that one letter, the sentence ends up contradictory. Fortunately, careful analysis of the original statement does show that Armstrong did indeed speak correctly.
“When I first looked back at the Earth, standing on the Moon, I cried.” – Alan Shepard
Alan Shepard saw action in the navy during World War II and went on to be a naval aviator. He was the first American to reach outer space aboard his Mercury capsule in May of 1961. Later, Shepard would be commander of the Apollo 14 spacecraft that put humans on the Moon for the third time.
When reminiscing about his experience on the Moon, Shepard answered with this quote. For all the man had experienced in life, that incredible view still brought him to tears. This quote is one of a few that adorn the tower that will send humans back to the Moon with the Artemis program.
“Earth is a small town with many neighborhoods in a very big universe.” – Ron Garan
Ron Garan is a retired NASA astronaut who spent a combined 178 days in space over the course of two missions. These missions took him over 71 million miles (114 million kilometers) as he orbited the Earth 2,842 times.
This quote recognizes our tiny place in the massive expanse we call the Universe. However, the statement doesn’t hide the fact that all of us are part of a global community. We may have our unique places, but at the end of the day, it takes all of us to take care of our “town.”
“I don’t know what you could say about a day in which you have seen four beautiful sunsets.” – John Glenn
John Glenn was fortunate enough to be the first American to orbit the Earth before safely returning planetside. During the voyage, Glenn was subject to multiple sunsets as he traveled around the planet at speeds in excess of 17,000 miles per hour (27,000 kilometers per hour).
During a press conference back on terra firma, John Glenn summed up his experience with this quote.
“Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.” – Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking is one of the more notable and intelligent minds of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Despite suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Hawking made many discoveries during his career. His time spent studying black holes made ripples in the world of physics.
The above quote appears in Hawking’s book The Grand Design, which seeks to answer many questions about the Universe, humans, and our purpose.
“To be the first to enter the cosmos, to engage, single-handed, in an unprecedented duel with nature—could one dream of anything more?” – Yuri Gagarin
Yuri Gagarin was a Soviet cosmonaut who became the first human to ever leave Earth’s atmosphere. His trip toward the stars took place on April 12th, 1961, aboard a Vostok spacecraft. The entire journey lasted 108 minutes and took Gagarin around our planet one time.
Gagarin didn’t see his flight as a victory over the United States, but rather a triumph over the forces of gravity that have kept man confined to Earth for thousands of years. The experience made the man a national hero who is still celebrated today.
“Let’s face it, space is a risky business. I always considered every launch a barely controlled explosion.” – Aaron Cohen
Aaron Cohen was a part of NASA’s team during the Apollo program and helped put 12 men on the Lunar surface. He later became manager for the Space Shuttle orbiter, designing many aspects of the Shuttle and seeing it through to production.
With such proximity to many launches over his career, it’s no surprise that Cohen would make such a statement about the nail-biting experience that a blastoff can be.
“Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot live in a cradle forever.” – Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky was a Russian inventor and engineer who became one of the fathers of rocketry and aeronautics.
Tsiolkovsky fell ill from scarlet fever at just ten years of age and effectively lost his hearing. Instead of using deafness as a handicap, it fueled Konstantin to accomplish what others had not. He went on to publish equations based on propulsion in single and multi-stage rockets that are the base for rocket science today.
The scientist was a firm believer in the dominance of humanity as a whole, and his famous quote indicates his desire for humanity to step out from Earth and grow.
“If offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.” – Christa McAuliffe
Christa McAuliffe was an American school teacher who was one of over 10,000 applicants to be the first nonscientist in space. Her application was selected, and McAuliffe trained as an astronaut to travel into space aboard the Challenger space shuttle in 1986. She shared this quote as part of her excitement over being chosen.
Sadly, McAuliffe’s mission was ill-fated, and the space shuttle exploded just 73 seconds after leaving the launch pad. There were no survivors. The catastrophe shook the world and halted space shuttle missions for two and a half years.
“Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here.” – Jack Swigert
Apollo 13 was another mission destined to end in failure. It was planned to be the third craft to put humans on the Moon, but disaster struck as the ship traveled through space.
Strange readings at mission control prompted a reboot of the main computer. This event caused a loud bang as the service module’s second oxygen tank exploded and ruptured. The noise caused Jack Swigert, command module pilot, to speak these now-famous words.
Surprisingly, the movie by the same name both incorrectly recites the quotation and puts the words in the mouth of Tom Hanks’s character Jim Lovell.
“I believe that space travel will one day become as common as airline travel is today.” – Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin
Buzz Aldrin became the second man to reach the lunar surface, touching down 19 minutes after Neil Armstrong. Space travel was still relatively new at this point, but standing on the Moon must have inspired Aldrin to think that we’d someday be living out some of our favorite science fiction movies.
Obviously, we’re not yet traveling to distant stars, but private companies are showing they have the means to take even civilians into space. These trips cost exorbitant amounts of money and last mere moments, but the path to Aldrin’s dream seems closer than ever.
“The Universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson
This somewhat tongue-in-cheek quote comes from contemporary astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Tyson has helped lead the charge in popularizing science and space through books and podcasts. He received a lot of flak when the decision was made to demote Pluto to dwarf planet status.
Tyson’s quote speaks to the wonders of the cosmos around us and how we’re constantly discovering new things about it. In such a vast space, many things still don’t make sense to us, and it may be a long time before they do.
What is NASA’s Catchphrase?
NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, has been at the forefront of many space missions since its inception in 1958. The administration’s catchphrase reads, “At NASA, we make Air and Space available for everyone.”
2022 marks just 65 years since the first satellite, Sputnik, was launched into space. In those 65 years, we’ve seen and uncovered countless amazing things that have put us where we are today. Fortunately, the space program is alive and well, with human-crewed missions planned to the Moon and Mars. Time will tell what other space quotes these achievements bring.