Among NASA's chosen few there have also been astronauts of Slovenian descent

Author: Tanja Glogovčan

Date: 1. November 2019

Time to read: 2 min

On 19 July, 50 years ago, American Neil Armstrong was the first man to set foot on the Moon’s surface. This historical event has had important implications not only for science and technology, but for all areas of society. Four astronauts of Slovenian descent have also flown into space. After Neil Armstrong, the first man who stepped on the Moon 50 years ago, four American astronauts of Slovenian descent have also flown into space. These are Ronald Šega, Jerry Linenger, Sunita Williams and Randy Bresnik.

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Ronald Šega is the son of Slovenian emigrants, born in 1952 in Cleveland, Ohio. His father's family comes from Loški Potok. He became a NASA astronaut in 1991. His first STS-60 mission in 1994 was the first joint US-Russian shuttle mission, which carried out a series of experiments in orbit. In 1996, Šega participated in the STS-76 mission, the third one in which a space shuttle docked to the Russian space station Mir. He spent 17 days in space altogether.


Jerry Linenger was born in 1955 in Eastpointe, Michigan. His grandparents on his mother's side moved to the US from Tržič and Radovljica respectively. He joined NASA in 1992 and flew into space for the first time in September 1994, where he spent almost 11 days. Then, after training at the Russian Space Center in January 1997, he flew to the Russian space station Mir. He spent 132 days there, setting the male record at the time.


Sunita Williams was born in 1965 in Euclid, Ohio, to a mother of Slovenian and a father of Indian descent. She was admitted to the NASA astronaut team in 1998. Her first space flight took place in 2006 and lasted for 192 days, which was then the female record, and the second in 2012, when she was in space for four months. Together over both missions she stepped out of the International Space Station (ISS) seven times, and walked in space for more than 50 hours altogether. During her first mission, she was the first human in space to run a marathon, while during her second mission she did a triathlon.


Randy Bresnik was born in 1967 in Fort Knox, Kentucky, and his ancestors come from the area of Ljubno ob Savinji. He was admitted to the astronaut team of the US space agency in 2004. On the first day of his service he met the first man who stepped on the Moon 50 years ago. So far, he has been on two missions to the International Space Station, namely, in 2009 and 2017. During the first one, he had two spacewalks totalling almost 12 hours. On the second one, when he spent 139 days on the ISS, he completed three spacewalks. Altogether, outside ISS he spent slightly more than 20 hours.