Do Astronauts Need Passports When They Travel to Space?

No passport necessary. Above, the space shuttle Endeavour lifts off from Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on May 16, 2011, in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

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Answer by Clayton C. Anderson, two-time ISS astronaut; six spacewalks, 30-year NASA employee (retired 2013), author:

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 passes within one of the numerous pockets adorning their bright orange launch-and-entry suits. 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 they should have. The looks on the already stress-laden neophytes are said to be priceless! 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 microgravity.

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

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

Do astronauts need passports when they travel to space/leave Earth? originally appeared on Quora. More questions on Quora: