Quora Question: Do Astronauts Need Passports When They Travel to Space?

Do you need a passport in space?
Astronaut Ed White floats in the microgravity of space 50 years ago during the first U.S. spacewalk outside the Gemini IV spacecraft in this NASA picture taken June 3, 1965. NASA/Jim McDivitt/Handout/Reuters

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Answer from Clayton C. Anderson, retired U.S. astronaut

Astronauts do NOT need passports or visas when they leave Earth and travel into outer space. At least, they don't at this time in our history.

On a slightly related note, a good U.S. astronaut story concerns first-time flier astronauts heading toward the launch pad for their inaugural trip into space. As a way to indoctrinate these so-called rookies, so the story goes, experienced astros would cleverly have fake shuttle boarding passes made in advance. All veteran fliers on the crew would conceal their boarding pass within one of the numerous pockets adorning their bright orange launch and entry suit. Then, on their way to the pad, just before the final drive up the hill to the launch crawler platform, the commander sternly instructs the crew to "...have your boarding passes ready." Imagine the confusion of the rookies as they scramble to try to figure out exactly "...what boarding passes?" The looks between the already stress-laden neophytes are said to be priceless!

The STS-117 crew prepares to board the Astro Van for the trip out to Launch Pad 39-A, June 8, 2007.

The trap sprung, good laughs result as the commander gives up the sham, hopefully providing a bit of stress relief for those heading toward their initial meeting with micro-gravity.

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?), the commanders for my two flights into space: STS-117/C.J. Sturckow and STS-131/Alan "Dex" Poindexter, chose not to utilize this worn-out shuttle tradition. It might have helped me!

The STS-131 crew poses at the top of the stack during their Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test (TCDT) in March 2010.

Keep lookin' up...or keep lookin' for that boarding pass! You're gonna need it!

Clayton C. Anderson's book The Ordinary Spaceman can be purchased here.

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