Oklahomyths: The Place for Space? - 405 Magazine

Oklahomyths: The Place for Space?

In a series devoted to fact-checking Sooner State folklore, M.J. Alexander uncovers some bad news about Oklahoma’s self-proclaimed astronaut supremacy.


While Oklahoma may be a comparatively young state, it’s nonetheless rich with history, lore and fun facts. Unfortunately, some of those facts aren’t quite so … factual. In this series, M.J. Alexander hunts for the accuracy – or lack thereof – behind some of our state’s stories.

THE CLAIM: Oklahoma has been home to more astronauts than any other state.

SOURCE: AmericanProfile.com, July 8, 2001

FACT CHECK: According to NASA’s 2013 Astronaut Fact Book, there have been 330 NASA astronauts: 50 active astronauts, 35 management astronauts, 196 astronauts who have retired or resigned and 49 who have died. Eight astronauts have Oklahoma ties; five of those were born in the state:

(clockwise from top left) Lieutenant General Thomas Stafford’s statue commemorates his stellar – literally – life and career. // John Herrington born Sept. 14, 1958, in Wetumka // Shannon Lucid born Jan. 14, 1943, in Shanghai to missionary parents; raised in Bethany // Thomas Stafford born Sept. 17, 1930, in Weatherford // Stuart Roosa born Aug. 16, 1933, in Durango, Colo.; attended high school in Claremore // William Pogue born Jan. 23, 1930, in Okemah // Gordon Cooper born March 6, 1927, in Shawnee // Owen Garriott born Nov. 22, 1930, in Enid

But while that’s an impressive roster, and these challengers of the unknown have given Oklahoma plenty to be proud of, it’s not the most from any state. It’s not even the most from any city.

Among cities, New York City is the hometown to the most astronauts, with 13, followed by Boston and Cleveland with seven each, Philadelphia with six and Baltimore with five.

So if any starry-eyed young Sooners want to boost our totals in the future, the sky’s the limit. For now, though, the state is far from the most astronomical.


► Star Power

New York – 31
California – 23
Texas – 23
Ohio – 21
Pennsylvania – 20
Massachusetts – 14
Illinois – 14
Michigan – 12
New Jersey – 12
Indiana – 12
Virginia – 10