8 FREE Stories Featuring Spaceships & Astronauts For SciFi Addicts!

Space has long inspired us. Whether it’s been the source of creativity or the object of scientific study, I think it’s safe to say that there hasn’t been a person alive who hasn’t looked up at the night sky in wonder. This is no doubt one of the reasons science fiction is such a popular genre.

Today is the International Day of Human Space Flight. Or it was, or will be, depending on when you’re reading this. The point is April 12th is the date we acknowledge and recognise the amazing achievement of space flight. This is because on 12 April 1961, Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet citizen, carried out the first EVER human space launch, beginning humanity’s journey of space exploration.

In celebration, I’ve picked out some free short stories from around the web that feature space launches, astronauts, and spaceships.

astronaut in space
Photo by Pixaby

Disclaimer: To my knowledge all the stories featured on this list are either in the Public Domain or have been graciously shared with the author’s permission. If it comes to light that any of these stories are pirated and a link to a non-pirated copy of the story isn’t available, that story will be unlinked and a note added. I do not support piracy, I support authors and writers.

1. Mr. Spaceship by Philip K. Dick

This whopper of a science fiction story would definitely not have made my list of 10 Stories Short Enough To Read On A Lunch Break. This story is a little over 10k, so it’s a good one for a late evening when you’ve finished all your hard work for the day.

The premise is: Humanity is at war with an alien lifeform known as “Yuks.” The Yuks don’t use mechanical spaceships like you might imagine. Instead, they use life forms to power their technology, which means that they can out-think any mechanical machines humans use. As the war draws on, a team of researchers led decide to build a spaceship powered by a human brain. This, of course, does not go wrong at all.

At all…

Originally published in 1953, perhaps unsurprisingly there’s an eyebrow-raising line or two about animal consciousness, or lackthereof. It’s also got a bit of the old Adam and Eve plot, where Eve, of course, has no automony in the situation. Both of these are very minor and worth powering through to experience the rest of the story. If you have time to spare and want to get stuck into a longer piece, this one is for you.

2. A Vector Alphabet of Interstellar Travel by Yoon Ha Lee

Told as a series of vignettes, A Vector Alphabet Of Interstellar Travel is not simply about interstellar travel.

It focuses on the starships built by different alien races – about their function outside of travel, how they fit into the culture of the alien race as a whole, and why they were built.

This is a light read, a little expository, and very thought-provoking.

3. Emergency Exit by Jarod K Anderson

Space travel is often depicted as a wonderous experience or as a kind of pirate’s life in space type of deal: adventure with laser guns. Some stories choose to depict the harsher reality of space travel: the loneliness, losing track of time, the toll being in space does on the human body, especially after a long period of time.

In Emergency Exit, Jarod K Anderson depicts all of these in just 600 words. He tells the story of a person who was in love with the adventure being onboard a spaceship, but is now grappling with the horror of it. The story is short, says what it needs to, and finishes on a powerful moment.

I would like to give a content warning for suicide ideation. No explicit action is described.

4. The Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal

This is another long one for those of you who want to sit with a story for more than five minutes. At about 8000 words, The Lady Astronaut of Mars follows Elma York, who is a retired astronaut dealing with the repercussions of fame and a longing to return to space. One day she is contacted for a mission to an newly discovered planet, however going means leaving her dying husband behind.

Not only does the story tackle life on another planet, and the life of an astronaut, it deals with the sorrows of aging and losing the ones you love.

5. It’s Good to See You by Douglas Rudoff

Another one from the excellent daily science fiction site, this story follows Brad. He’s a passenger on a spaceship where ‘dead’ passengers are ressurected every eight years, and later ‘killed’ and ‘shelved.’ This is how the bodies are preserved throughout years of space travel.

Brad has four days left alive before he’s put back on the shelf for another eight years – and he’s just found out that his ex-wife is on the ship too and wants to see him.

6. The Backwards Kind by Julia H Dixon

This story is about an alien race observing the first manned mission to Mars. The astronauts are a newly married couple, Finn and Aubrey. The twist? The aliens perceive time in reverse…and they know that Finn and Aubrey are going to die on the red planet.

One of the shorter stories on this list, The Backwards Kind can be read in about 10 minutes. Great for squeezing in a bit of reading on your work break.

7. Damn the Asteroids, Full Speed Ahead! by Tom Jolly

Fans of Star Trek and The Orville will enjoy this one. It’s essentially telling the same gag that Galaxy Quest does – and that’s that 60s science fiction is a little zany and ridiculous when you spare it a thought.

Like, why are all the aliens humanoid? Why is all our technology compatible despite the fact we evolved light years apart? Why do asteroids only appear when it’s most inconvenient to the plot?

Author, Tom Jolly, gives us a tropey answer to these tropey questions. It’ll put a smile on the face of any classic sci-fi lover.

8. The Wayfarers by Alex R. Howe

Life is turned upside down for a family living onboard a spaceship when they find out their fleet is about to arrive in a new galaxy. The fleet is 300 years old, and the passengers have gotten used to a life onboard. Now they must grapple with what seems normal to us – snow and rain and seasons. And, of course, aliens.

A lot of science fiction stories, especially short ones, use ‘humans destroyed the planet’ as the explanation for humans packing up and travelling the galaxy. Alex Howe takes a different route, one of war and tragedy, which is refreshing to see.

The story is standalone, roughly 6000 words, but Alex Howe has written other stories set in the same universe.

There are hundreds – thousands – more science fiction stories out there to choose from! If you know any that haven’t been included here, I do encourage you to drop them in the comments below. If you enjoyed this list, let me know.


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