Vance Astrovik was born in Saugerties, New York, the only son of a small-town butcher and his wife. Going into the U.S. Air Force at the age of 18, Astrovik (who changed his name to Astro when he was 21) became the youngest man to be accepted into the astronaut training program several years later. In 1988, Astro volunteered for the first manned interstellar mission ever conducted by the United States. In this alternate future, Reed Richards never released his own experimental faster-than-light ship to the government, and they were unaware that he even has such a capability.
His ship, Odysseus I, was not equipped for faster-than-light speed; hence the journey to Earth's nearest interstellar neighbor, a planet in the Alpha Centauri system, would take about 10 centuries. To protect him from aging, Astro was covered with a skin-preserving copper alloy (which was later revealed to be adamantium) bodysuit, and his blood was transfused with a kind of preservative fluid. Astro was launched into space from the Houston Airport in the fall of 1988.
While on his way to Alpha Centauri, the ship automatically awoke him from his suspended animation in order for him to perform routine course adjustments. During the periods he was awake, sometimes for a year in duration, Astro eventually went insane from loneliness on several occasions, only returning to a semblance of normality after the ship automatically put him back in suspended animation again. During his long periods of sustained dream-state activities, Astro's latent psionic powers emerged. By the time he arrived on Centauri IV almost a thousand years later, he had full control over his psychokinetic abilities.
Upon arrival, Astro learned that Earth had beat him to Centauri IV by two hundred years, having developed a faster-than-light drive since the time he left. Although Earth was unable to intercept his flight, the Centaurian people afforded him a hero's welcome. Disturbed by his reputation, Astro was determined to carry out the mission he was assigned a millennium ago, even though it would now be superfluous. While engaged in a geophysical survey, he encountered Yondu, one of the humanoid natives of the planet. When the alien Badoon launched an attack on Centauri IV, annihilating the human colony and methodically eradicating the natives, Astro and Yondu attempted to escape in Astro's ship. They were overtaken and transported to Earth. There they escaped and joined with two other survivors of Badoon's massacre to form the Guardians of the Galaxy. After liberating Earth, the Guardians set out on a random course across the galaxy, in the hopes of safeguarding freedom everywhere.