Movie The Right Stuff (1983) claims at the end that Gordon Cooper was the last man to fly alone in space (if I remember it correctly and dubbing is right). Beside that, Wikipedia also states that he was in 1963 the last American to do a full solo orbital mission. Is he still holding this as world record or some other not American astronaut did the same more recently?

Disclaimer: really I did not like that movie. :-)


1 Answer 1


The last person to fly solo in space was Brian Binnie of the Space Ship One flight on October 4, 2004. That was a sub-orbital flight, just barely touching space. The Space Shuttle required 2 people to launch minimum, thus, it was never launched Solo. Neither were Apollo and Gemini, so it has been since the Mercury program since an American could launch solo in to space.

Of some note is the fact that, while launched together, the Command Module pilot was in space by himself for an extended period of time. Ronald E Evans was alone on the Command Module for 80 hours on Apollo 17. The Russians, however, orbited Earth for slightly longer solo.

The Chinese have flown one solo mission, and the pilot was Yang Liwei. The date was October 15, 2003. He was the last astronaut to orbit the Earth solo.

The last solo Russian Cosmonaut was Georgy Beregovoy, launched 30 October 1968. Since then, the Russian program has used the Soyuz capsule, which typically requires two pilots. Soyuz 4/5, however, transferred crew in space. Soyuz 4, launched 17 January 1969, was launched with just Vladimir Shatalov, while Soyuz 5 landed with just Boris Volynov, having two astronauts from Soyuz 5 who switched in space. This was the last time a Russian spacecraft had only a single occupant in space, per Wikipedia.

Of course, the movie was filmed in 1983. That leaves Georgy Beregovoy as the last person to fly an entire mission solo in space prior to the movie being released.

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    $\begingroup$ Vladimir Komarov flew solo in the tragic Soyuz 1 flight in 1967. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 4, 2013 at 2:49
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    $\begingroup$ It's also worth noting that SS1 flew well after the movie. Komarov can be discounted as the mission supposed to land by parachute, and crashed. (He almost completed the mission, but the mission also included post-flight components.) $\endgroup$
    – aramis
    Commented Aug 4, 2013 at 3:16
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    $\begingroup$ @aramis: Found a better source, turns out it was G. Beregovoi on 30 October 1968. $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Commented Aug 4, 2013 at 11:17
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps nitpicking, but when you say "last", do you really mean "most recent"? $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Aug 1, 2016 at 19:03
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    $\begingroup$ "Last", at least to me, implies that we know that nobody will do it in the future (which seems a little presumptuous, though perhaps reasonably likely). "Most recent" would simply mean that to date, nobody has done it after Binnie's flight. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 19:00

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