Words – The meaning of the word cosmonaut

For this blog post, I shall be specifically looking further into the meaning of the word cosmonaut, as well as the origins to gain a stronger understanding and to see if this can aid creativity for this project. For the origins I will also look into the meaning of the words ‘astronaut’ and ‘taikonaut’.

On top of that I shall also be looking to answer the questions that were raised at the interim crit regarding my work.

The meanings and origins of the words relating to cosmonaut:

astronaut – a person who is trained to travel in a spacecraft. ORIGIN 1920s: from astro-‘ , on the pattern of aeronaut’ and aquanaut’.

cosmonauta Russian astronaut. ORIGIN 1950s: from cosmos, on the pattern of astronaut and Russian kosmonavt.

taikonauta Chinese astronaut. ORIGIN: blend of Chinese taikong ‘outer space’ and astronaut’.

From this it would appear to me that the word ‘astronaut’ came first, as it originated in the 1920’s, and was a ‘generic’ term that was adopted by the USA and any other country since who has not had a need or want for their language to be reflected in the word, such as the word taikonaut, which as can be seen from the definition makes sense.

Finishing up at cosmonaut, the origins were in the 1950’s, and I would expect the word was created as part of the beginnings of the Soviet space program, as Sputnik 1 went into orbit in 1957 and the first cosmonaut to travel into space was Yuri Gagarin in 1961. However, I wanted to find out what ‘cosmos’ meant. So I looked it up and below is the definition:

cosmos – the universe seen as a well-ordered whole: he sat staring deep into the void, reminding himself of man’s place in the cosmos. Also a system of thought: the new gender-free intellectual cosmos. ORIGIN: Middle English: from Greek kosmos ‘order or world’.

This set off a thought process in my head. Did the Soviets see themselves controlling space travel in an ordered manner with their space program? Undoubtedly so I think. Does one of the meanings of cosmos being “a system of thought” tie into communism, which is a “system of social organisation.” so therefore can be seen to be another “system of thought”? I would like to think that it does, which reveals the word cosmonaut to be a deeply important word to the Soviets that not only reflected someone travelling into space, as an individual, but linking it back as communism always did to the ideology of an achievement for the country rather than an individual. Therefore I see the word ‘cosmonaut’ strongly reflecting their ideology.

Did the Soviet space program have a logo?

My personal knowledge was that it does not have a space program logo as such, and used CCCP (Союз Советских Социалистических Республик|r, Russian for Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, USSR.)

However, the question raised during some feedback about this placed a doubt into my mind that I wanted to address. So I did some research into Soviet propaganda posters advertising the successes of the space program, and found CCCP was the only thing that ever appeared, which I am pleased to say means my initial thoughts were true. Looking at images of cosmonauts and space rockets/satellites has shown me that there was no ‘logo’ as such, just ‘C C C P’ placed in a strong, bold serif typeface with a large amount of tracking to separate the letters. This was bright red, so when placed on a white helmet or rocket, it made a strong, visible statement.

Nowadays, Russia has the Russian Federal Space Agency, known as ROSCOSMOS, or POCKOCOMOC in Russian. This does have a logo, which I have placed below. Personally, I feel this logo lacks strength in its identity. Would you have known what this was if you only saw the image part of the logo? I know I would not. Although I understand Russia is moving on from its former communist path, I expected more of a national pride to be present in their space program. It is possible though to see a dynamic element to the logo carried through in the red triangles, which as I will talk about later when I talk about space propaganda posters, a important feature.

Conclusion: How does this relate to the overall design?

  • Increased understanding. My greater understanding of this word has allowed me to confirm that the thought process I have looked into with the sketches I made with my ideas are on the correct path of thought.
  • Interesting subject matter. I have found this word to be very interesting to research indeed, so although it is a literal word, with little room for maneouvre with its meaning, I believe a good design can be produced that has connotations to artwork that has gone before, but arranges it to look into the meaning of the word better.
  • Can I have more type than just the word and definition? It would be interesting to have some of the origins to the word to allow the readers of the book the opportunity to think and learn some more about the word like I have. I will need to discuss this with my tutor and to see whether it is suitable to do. I will certainly experiment with this in an idea though.