How to Address an Former Astronaut?
What is the proper way to address a former astronaut? In California a former astronaut is running for Congress. Is he or is he not allowed to call himself ‘Astronaut (Name)’ in his campaign literature if he is not currently an astronaut?
——————– Brian K. in California
Dear Brian K.,
Promoting yourself in a political campaign ‘Astronaut (Name)’ is odd, but I’d put it in the category as strange rather than breaking some rule.
—-#1) Being an astronaut is like being a chef, teacher, shepherd or lifeguard: it is a job one holds – in this case – held. None of these roles is formally used as a part of one’s name. In the media you will read and hear:
—-—-“Lifeguard Steve Thompson suggests …”
—-—-“According to Chef Neville there is a trend …”
—-—-“Football Coach Wilson says …”
—-Each of these is descriptive form – not formally a form of address. All would be in writing ‘Mr./Ms. (Full Name)’ or orally ‘Mr./Ms. (Surname)’ in formal address.
—-#2) There is no personal rank granted and no special honorific used when directly addressing an astronaut. A civilian astronaut is correctly addressed as ‘Mr./Ms./Dr. (Name)’ and identified as an astronaut after the name. Many astronauts are or have been military officers and thus are addressed by rank in retirement.
—-#3) If you are looking for a precedent, Department of Defense (DoD) guidelines suggest it would be inappropriate for a retired officer to use his/her rank as part of his/her name in a campaign for public office. But that falls apart a bit because even a current astronaut was not formally addressed as ‘Astronaut (Name)’.
—-#4) If he’s no longer in the NASA program (which you seem to say he is not) perhaps most accurately he would be identified in writing or in an introduction as a ‘Mr./Ms./Dr. (Full Name)”, candidate for XYZ was a member of a NASA (name of mission) astronaut’.
– Robert Hickey