Aerospace Names: Rocket men and women from Rosa to Rudy and beyond

posted by: mill1020 View all posts by this author
space baby names

By Laura Miller Brennan

Are you a physics whiz who daydreams of soaring through Earth’s atmosphere?  Did you meet your spouse at a screening of Black Sky: The Race for Space?  Have you ever parked on the shoulder of a freeway to watch a shuttle landing?  If so, your youngster may need an aerospace name.  Here are a few uplifting options that are more accessible than Moon Unit.


Valentina Tereshkova:  She was the very first woman in orbit, floating aboard the Soviet capsule Vostok 6 in 1963.  Salma Hayek’s daughter has helped to re-launch this euphonious name, which is from the Latin Valens for “healthy, vigorous, strong.”

Camille Wardrop Alleyne:  Born in Trinidad, she worked as an aerospace engineer for the U.S. Department of Defense before rising to Assistant Program Scientist for the International Space Station (ISS) at NASA.  The elegant Camille has the added bonus of a trendy nickname—Milla.   See also: fellow NASA leader Ginger Kerrick, who has served as Flight Director of 13 ISS missions.

Sally Kristen Ride:  First American woman in space, and Sally was the full first name on her birth certificate.  She also launched an educational series on space and co-wrote several children’s books with her partner, Tam O’Shaughnnessy.  Dr. Ride famously likened the acceleration through the atmosphere as having “a 600-pound gorilla sitting on top of you…then the space shuttle engines stop.  The gorilla vanishes…and your notebook floats in front of you and you’re in space.”  Her ascent within the male-dominated field influenced one of the last astronauts of the shuttle program, Dottie Metcalfe-Lindenberger.

Rosa Obregon:  Lead mechanical engineer and rocket tester at NASA Stennis Space Center.  Rosa is as iconic and classic as Mary, as in Mary Sherman Morgan, inventor of the rocket fuel Hydyne.  A play called Rocket Lady that was based on her life was produced at Caltech.  Another aerospace Mary is Mary Roach, author of the hilarious and informative bestseller Packing For Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void.


Rudy Kennedy: Born Rudi Karmeinsky, his life story is one of triumph over extreme adversity.  Karmeinsky survived Holocaust slave labor camps and the murder of his family when he was a teen.  After he escaped from a British-liberated Bergen-Belsen and lost a lung to tuberculosis, he attended night classes and ultimately became a rocket scientist/entrepreneur.  In the mid-1990’s he campaigned for reparations from the German companies that used slave labor.  His adopted surname, Kennedy, has a not-so-subtle tie to aerospace, too—John F. Kennedy’s “We Choose to go to the Moon” speech later propelled the U.S. into the space race.

Burt Rutan (born Elbert Leander Rutan): Elbert has been pegged by nameberry as a “colonial craftsman” name, and the skilled-artisan image is fitting for the award-winning aeronautics engineer and designer Rutan.  He is strictly known as Burt, though.  His suborbital rocketship SpaceShipOne won the 2004 X-Prize, and in his retirement he is rumored to have worked on a hybrid flying car.  Variation Bert hasn’t been popular in the U.S. since the late 1800’s, but the similar name Albert has a certain “stodgy-cool” appeal.

Edwin EugeneBuzz” Aldrin.  Decorated astronaut and second human to set foot on the moon; legally changed his name from the stolid Edwin Eugene to punchy nickname Buzz in 1988.  The nickname evolved from a mispronunciation by one of his sisters, who called him “buzzer” (“brother”).  Virgil IvanGus Grissom was a NASA astronaut and test pilot who died during testing of Apollo I; he was a tremendously talented command pilot—the first to fly into space twice—and received a posthumous Congressional Space Medal of HonorSaint Virgil of Salzburg believed in human life on the other side of our planet based on accounts from ocean explorers.  Honorable mentions are fellow astronauts Alan Shepherd and Neil Armstrong, and Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

Jet:  Could be inspired by the JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) at NASA or George Jetson of cartoon fame.

Cosmos:  From the Greek Cosmo (“order; beauty”), it’s needn’t be forever associated with Kramer’s first name.  A cosmonaut is a sailor of the universe, according to the Russian and Greek translation.



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About the author


Laura Miller Brennan is a stay-at-home mom of four and an M.S. candidate in biology. Her blog, Letters to Aunt Kay, -- the long, strange trip of parenting as told to a compassionate witness. Her favorite pastime is reading to her kids.
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2 Responses to “Aerospace Names: Rocket men and women from Rosa to Rudy and beyond”

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mermuse Says:

January 31st, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Sally is my stepmother’s full first name, too.

mill1020 Says:

January 31st, 2014 at 12:51 pm

I really like Sally. For me she sounds like a grinning, smart young lady in saddle shoes.

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