In recent years there has been much talk about the possibility of establishing a permanent space colony somewhere in the solar system. If that happens it's plausible that within the next century somebody is going to live their entire life in space.

Currently our knowledge of the health effects of living in space are somewhat limited in various respects, in particular I don't think we know exactly what the effect is on people outside of a narrow age range. But how narrow exactly is that range?

Who was the youngest and oldest persons to fly in space? And what were their age at the time?


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As of October 13, 2021, the oldest person to fly in space is Canadian actor William Shatner (T.J. Hooker, Boston Legal), aged 90. This was a brief suborbital flight above the Kármán line on Blue Origin's NS18.

Astronaut John Glenn holds the record for oldest person in orbit by a fair margin; he flew on STS-95 at the age of 77 -- officially as a "payload specialist", but in practice as a passenger.

A number of other astronauts have been to space in their late 50s and early 60s. Of these, Story Musgrave, the second-oldest, has flown over 1200 hours in space on 6 different shuttle missions from age 47 to 61. The linked article actually isn't complete; it's missing (at least) Pavel Vinogradov, the oldest spacewalker and I believe the oldest cosmonaut, having commanded ISS mission 36 at the age of 60.

The youngest person in to fly in space is Oliver Daemen, an 18-year old Dutch student. This was also a short suborbital flight above the Kármán line, Blue Origin's NS16 in July 2021.

The youngest person in orbit was 25-year-old Gherman Titov on Vostok 2 -- USSR's second cosmonaut and the 4th person to fly into space. Sally Ride was the youngest American astronaut, flying STS-7 at the age of 32.

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    $\begingroup$ "officially as a "payload specialist", but in practice as a passenger" So ... on that flight he specialized in being payload? $\endgroup$ Dec 22, 2018 at 1:49
  • $\begingroup$ He was the last of the 3 despicable politicians that used their political power over NASA to get a ride on the shuttle. A sad fall from his heroic Mercury days. $\endgroup$ Dec 22, 2018 at 3:00
  • $\begingroup$ John Glenn got no Gemini or Apollo flight, the Shuttle flight was a late compensation. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Dec 22, 2018 at 14:50
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    $\begingroup$ He got no Gemini or Apollo flights because he resigned from NASA to run for public office. I don’t have as much resentment for his shuttle flight as some do, but it certainly wasn’t something he was owed. $\endgroup$ Dec 22, 2018 at 17:15
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    $\begingroup$ @ikrase In the early days they wanted the best of the best, people with engineering degrees and significant amounts of test flight experience, which usually had a prerequisite of combat flight experience. The most impressive résumés were coming from people with a lot of years of experience. In the shuttle era, the payload specialist role didn’t require an experienced fighter jock, but often called for a PhD, and it was common to go five or ten years between being accepted into the corps and making a first space flight. $\endgroup$ Feb 8, 2020 at 16:34

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