As NASA has demonstrated repeatedly, unmanned space probes can return a significant amount of data about our solar system and the universe beyond. But even state-of-the-art machines such as Curiosity,
the one-ton, instrument-laden machine due to arrive on Mars in August 2012, can only accomplish so much without arms, legs and a brain. The basic qualifications for becoming an astronaut center on NASA’s near-term strategic goals.
For example, astronauts must now meet the Soyuz vehicle’s size requirements, not the space shuttle. They must also know the International Space Station inside and out, from running onboard experiments to completing routine maintenance tasks.
Here Are How To Become An Astronaut
Qualifications every NASA astronaut must-have
- U.S. citizenship
- Bachelor’s degree in engineering, biological sciences, physical sciences or mathematics from an accredited college or university
- After obtaining a bachelor’s degree or at least 1,000 hours in jet aircraft as the pilot in command, three years of related professional experience, advanced degrees may be substituted for professional experience according to the following formula: a master’s degree equals one year of experience, and a doctorate equals three years.
- Completion of the NASA long-duration. Space flight physical exam. Applicants must demonstrate distantly and near visual acuity, correctable to 20/20 in each eye, and must not have blood pressure that exceeds 140/90 measured in a sitting position.
- Height of 62 to 75 inches (157.5 centimetres to 190.5 centimetres).
If you have these essential qualifications and want to apply, you must follow particular procedures. Civilians must submit applications through the Office of Personnel Management’s USAJOBS site.
One caveat about your résumé: It must be no longer than six typed pages, or approximately 22,000 characters, including spaces. If your résumé is too long, or if it’s uploaded from a second source, it will be bumped from the system.
Just like civilians, active-duty military personnel must submit applications for the Astronaut Candidate Program through the Office of Personnel Management’s USAJOBS site. They must also apply through their respective military services, using procedures and requirements determined by their specific function—military points of contact.
NASA regularly works with foreign astronauts, including Canada, Japan, Russia, Brazil and Europe. You can find a full list of external and international space agencies here. However, you should be aware that each foreign agency has its guidelines and rules for astronaut selection.
For example, the European Space Agency, or ESA, manages the European Astronaut Corps, which recruits new candidates from Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden. The ESA has only run three astronaut selection campaigns, with the most recent concluding in 2009.
Astronaut Candidate Selection
NASA evaluates all of the applicants and narrows the list down to a small group of finalists. These finalists must complete a gruelling week of personal interviews, medical screening and orientation to see if they have the right stuff to become candidates. NASA selects about 100 men and women for each candidate class. These lucky people report to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, for two years of training and evaluations. The training is designed to develop the knowledge and skills required for a formal mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
Candidates receive instruction in ISS systems and operations, extravehicular activities, robotics, aircraft flight readiness and the Russian language. And, because a significant amount of astronaut training occurs underwater to simulate low-gravity environments, all candidates must complete military water survival and become SCUBA-qualified. They must also swim three lengths of a 25-meter pool in a flight suit and tennis shoes and tread water for 10 minutes.
Once you are chosen for a mission, you will receive training specific to that mission. Long-duration missions aboard the ISS generally last from three to six months and require two to three years of preparation. You will be expected to have detailed knowledge of the operational characteristics, mission requirements and objectives, and supporting systems and equipment for each experiment on your assigned missions.
Astronauts are expected to stay with NASA for at least five years after their selection (military personnel are detailed to NASA for a selected period). They are federal civil service employees (GS-11 to GS-14 grade) with equivalent pay based on experience. They’re eligible for vacation, medical and life insurance, and retirement benefits.
In many ways, becoming an astronaut is no different than becoming anything else. It takes an excellent education, hard work and steadfast dedication. Unlike other professionals, however, astronauts have a much longer commute and a far better view from the corner office.
Source: | NASA