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I read in Melburnian Rachel Davey becomes the first Australian woman to visit every nation in the world (mirror):

In human history, more people have been to space than visited every nation.

Is that true?

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Have more people have been to space than visited every nation?

It depends on what means by "visiting every nation" and on what means by "going into space".

The United Nations has 193 member nations. There are also 2 addition non-member observer states, the Holy See and the State of Palestine. There are also many territories, etc., such as Taiwan and Kosovo that claim to be independent nations. This makes the list of those who have traveled to a nation a bit fuzzy. Even fuzzier, what counts as a visit? Does stepping across the border and stepping back, just on ones say-so, count? Does buying a trinket in an airport during a layover (thereby making the visit official, in the eyes of some (including the Guinness Book of World Records) count?

The list of self-proclaimed world travelers (those who have visited 193 or 195 or 196 or 200 nations) is small, about 300 according to the article linked in the question. The number who have proof of this is smaller yet. Most of those about 300 dromomaniacs are self-proclaimed world travelers. There are websites where one can register as a dromomaniac just on ones say-so.

In any case, there aren't very many people who, self-proclaimed or documented by some means, who have visited all 193 member countries of the United Nations, plus entities that claim to be nations but aren't recognized as such. The linked article says "about 300". Other sites / articles say similar numbers.

On the flip side, what does "going into space" mean? This too is fuzzy.

  1. It might mean going above 50 miles above the surface of the Earth. This is the threshold for earning the United States Astronaut Badge. There is a lot of air above 50 miles above the surface of the Earth.
  2. It might mean going above 100 kilometers above the surface of the Earth. This is the threshold used by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI). This is the rather fuzzy Karman line. This is also the generally accepted definition of "going into space". It excludes about 30 people who have met criterion #1 but did not pass this criterion. As this is the generally accepted definition of "going into space", the number is 622, which is well more than the about 300 who have "visited every nation".
  3. It might mean orbiting the Earth above the Karman line at least once. This drops about another 30 or so who have ventured across the Karman line but were on suborbital flights. That's still well more than the about 300 who have "visited every nation".
  4. It might mean escaping the vast, vast bulk of Earth's atmosphere. This brings the number down to 24, substantially less than the about 300 who have "visited every nation".
  5. It might mean completely escaping the Earth's gravitational sphere of influence. As the Moon orbits the Earth, going to the Moon doesn't count. We'll have to wait for humans to go to Mars to get the number of people who have "gone into space" above zero.

Most people and organizations, including NASA, will agree that orbiting the Earth counts as "going into space". By that metric, Yuri Gagarin was the first person who went into space. That puts the number of people who have gone into space at about 600, in which case the claim is true.

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    There is no such thing as "the Earth's gravitational sphere of influence". The gravity of any body extends without limits.
    – nasu
    Dec 20, 2022 at 18:39
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    @nasu See Sphere of influence (astrodynamics), and also Hill sphere. Dec 20, 2022 at 18:43
  • "Going into space" in this context could also mean doing a spacewalk. (That's what I would instinctively think). Otherwise, why wouldn't we count flying within a nation's airspace in the "capsule" of an airplane a visit?
    – Zeus
    Dec 22, 2022 at 0:58
  • @Zeus Spacewalks still have the person inside a spacesuit which is in practice a very small spacecraft - they have air supplies, water supplies, air conditioning and often gas-powered thrusters. It would be challenging to make a definition of a spacecraft that excluded all suits. Dec 24, 2022 at 15:31
  • While you could quibble over what really counts as going to space, I think when most people say it they mean at least somewhere between #2 and #3 in your list above, which would appear to make this claim true.
    – komodosp
    Jan 3, 2023 at 11:42

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