How To Become An Astronaut In USA

By | September 21, 2022

How To Become An Astronaut In USA

Being an astronaut is a highly competitive selective career. Each year, qualified candidates compete in a rigorous application process to fill a very limited number of positions. Astronauts are professionals who specialize in human space exploration.

Although the most well-known and visible job responsibility is space travel, there are many behind-the-scenes activities that prepare astronauts for space travel.

Individuals who wish to become astronauts can ensure that intensive training and preparation prior to space travel fully prepares them to handle the high demands of being one of the few individuals to live and work in space.

In this article, we’ll explore what an astronaut does, how astronauts train, career requirements, and how to become one.

What is an astronaut?

The term “astronaut” translates as “sailor among the stars”. An astronaut is a specially trained and equipped person who travels into space as part of a space program. Since 1959, astronauts have been part of the American space program of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, better known as NASA.

NASA uses the term “astronaut” to describe any crew member aboard a NASA spacecraft or members of the NASA astronaut corps. Out of the thousands of applications received, only a few are selected for the intensive training program for astronaut candidates.

Although there is no age requirement, American astronauts are typically between the ages of 26 and 46, with an average age of 34. The youngest candidate accepted is a 16-year-old girl training for a mission to Mars.

America’s first astronauts were military personnel who had experience flying jet aircraft and backgrounds in engineering. In 1964, scientist-astronauts joined, requiring a doctorate in medicine, engineering, physics, chemistry, or biology. Astronauts are typically trained by military branches such as the Air Force or Space Force, or civilian space agencies.

NASA astronauts are still required to have a master’s degree, but the field has been opened to hiring civilian teachers, doctors, journalists and others. Commercial astronauts are a recent addition as privately funded spaceflight is on the rise.

What do astronauts do?

Astronauts are highly trained individuals who can pilot and/or travel in spacecraft and perform activities related to human space exploration.

There are currently two main types of astronauts – pilot astronauts and mission-specialized astronauts.

They are responsible for conducting experiments, maintaining spacecraft and equipment, and launching satellites.

Astronaut pilots are the pilots of the International Space Station and Space Shuttle who are responsible for the mission, its success, the crew and the safety of the flight.

Keep in mind that most of an astronaut’s career is spent in extensive training.

An astronaut is trained to pilot or fly a spacecraft. They are usually selected and trained at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas to serve on US or international space missions. Once you complete your training, you must be selected for a mission.

Mission duties may include:

  1. Command decisions
  2. Piloting a spaceship
  3. Conducting experiments
  4. Spaceship maintenance
  5. Provision of medical and emergency services to crew members
  6. Space walking to maintain a spaceship
  7. Running a space station
  8. Controlling robotic arms and machines
  9. Exercise daily
  10. Working as a team to complete tasks

Types of astronauts

There are three categories of astronauts at NASA. They contain:

  1. Astronaut Candidates: These individuals have been selected for NASA’s astronaut corps and are in training at the Johnson Space Center.
  2. Active Astronauts: Active astronauts are those who have completed astronaut candidate training and are fit for flight.
  3. Management Astronauts: These astronauts are employees of NASA but are no longer eligible for flight assignments.

Requirements For Astronauts

To ensure that the right candidates are selected, the requirements for astronaut positions are strict.

Astronauts are some of the most trained and educated professionals any industry has to offer.

Because flying into space involves a lot of risk and a huge amount of planning, individuals who want to become astronauts must go through several years of education and pass a series of physical tests to enter the field.

In addition, candidates who want to become an astronaut must also have some innate qualities to succeed in this profession.

Some sought-after qualities include attention to detail. This is extremely important because there is a high risk in this area that any small error or mistake can endanger the assignment and sometimes lives.

Individuals must also be trusted team players to be a good astronaut.

Being a good team player requires good listening skills and they are extremely important when working on Earth or in space.

Individuals who wish to become an astronaut must first complete college to obtain a bachelor’s degree in engineering, biological science, physical science, or mathematics.

Citizenship For Astronauts

Astronaut candidates must be US citizens. Dual citizenship is allowed.

Education For Astronauts

Astronaut applicants must have a master’s degree in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) program from an accredited university. This requirement can be met with 36 semester hours toward a doctoral program in a STEM field, such as a degree in science, technology, or mechanics; a completed Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree; or completion of a nationally recognized pilot school program

Professional Practice Requirements

Astronaut candidates must have at least two years or related professional experience after graduation or have at least 1,000 hours of flight time as a jet pilot-in-command. It must also undergo a long-duration flight by NASA astronauts.

Physical Requirements For Astronauts

  1. Vision: Distance and near visual acuity correct to 20/20 in each eye. Glasses are acceptable.
  2. Blood pressure: Resting blood pressure 140/90 or better
  3. Height: Usually between 62 inches (5 feet, 2 inches) and 75 inches (6 feet, 3 inches) in height
  4. Physical Fitness: Be in good physical condition for age and gender.
    Astronauts must fit into the spacesuit and spacecraft, so specific physical limits may be imposed on height, weight, and body size.

Astronaut job description

When an individual is first hired as an astronaut, they spend the first two years of their new job in specialized training.

Interestingly, most astronauts spend more time preparing for space travel on Earth than on the actual missions.
This is to ensure that the mission can be completed as safely as possible.

In addition, they are mentally tested and required to complete tasks in extreme environments to ensure they can remain calm under pressure.

Because they work in a team, astronauts request and are assigned specific titles and tasks.

An astronaut may specialize as a commander, pilot, mission specialist, or payload specialist.
Before going into space, an individual must go through training and a number of physical and mental tests to determine if he is mentally and physically fit to undergo a drastic trip to an outer earth.

The specific details of the assignment will depend on the role the astronaut has.

During the assignment, the individual may be responsible for a variety of tasks including observation and research, performing basic maintenance on the aircraft, conducting operations in a safe manner and general maintenance of the aircraft as appropriate.

How is astronaut training conducted?

Astronaut applicants are first reviewed by NASA’s Astronaut Selection Committee. If selected as an astronaut candidate, they will spend two years training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, to serve on US or international space missions. When not in space, astronauts work on the ground to support other NASA projects.

How to become an astronaut

If you want to become an astronaut, follow these steps:

1. School Study and Experiance

Based on the above requirements, both military and civilian astronauts should have a college degree in technical academics such as biological physical science, science, computer science, or engineering.

If you go the military route, you will be prepared to complete your education through the military. Higher education courses are offered through several federal programs, such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill, or educational institutions, such as the US Air Force Academy.

Civilian applicants can apply after a master’s degree in one of the above programs, have a medical degree, or spend two years as a PhD student in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics field.

After you’ve achieved your degree, you’ll need relevant work experience or pilot hours. Another advantage of entering the astronaut program after joining the military is that the military can account for your experience and education. Most astronaut pilots come from a military background where they log hours of training and completing missions.

2. Get into peak physical condition

Astronauts are required to meet strict physical demands, so they must keep in shape. If you are preparing to become an astronaut, you should make health and fitness a priority in your daily routine to prepare for the demands of the job and the requirements of the physical screening.

3. Apply for NASA candidate selection

Once you’re sure you meet the physical, educational, and experience requirements, ask NASA to select candidates. The application review process can usually take up to 60 days, according to NASA’s website, so don’t panic if you don’t hear back right away. NASA astronaut positions are highly competitive, so make sure you do your best in all tests and screenings.

4. Train to flight

If you are selected as an astronaut candidate, you will be required to undergo comprehensive mission training before entering a flight mission. Astronauts must also undergo survival training outside of the classroom, similar to military training.

In the second phase of training, a mission is selected and astronauts are paired with veteran astronauts. New astronauts are paired with their more experienced counterparts to learn how to successfully launch a mission, pre-launch activities, orbit entry and more.

Advanced training occurs when astronauts are given crew and mission assignments. It lasts 10 months and includes training for your specific role as part of a larger team.

Frequently Asked Questions About Astronauts

How much do astronauts get paid?

Astronaut salary will depend on your employment status in the military or civilian astronaut expertise. If you are a member of the military, you don’t get “paid” as an astronaut. You are paid according to your military rank. Civilian astronauts are considered government employees and their salaries are based on the Federal General Schedule pay scales for grades GS-13 through GS-15. A GS-13 can earn up to $103,309 a year, while a GS-14 can earn $122,077, according to FederalPay.org. The top GS-15 salary is $143,598 per year.

How long does it take to become an astronaut?

Approximately 10 years. It consists of four years for college, two years for a master’s degree, two years of professional experience, and then two years in the NASA Astronaut Corps.

How much does it cost to become an astronaut?

To become an astrophysicist, you would definitely need at least a bachelor’s degree in physical science, biological science, mathematics, or engineering.

A year at university can cost you anywhere between $8,000 and $45,000 (and more); costs depend on various factors (books, supplies and accommodation costs are not included).

However, a higher degree is preferred; a master’s degree can cost you between $30,000 and $120,000, while a PhD – around $30,000 per year.

Pilot candidates should ideally have at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in a jet aircraft (a private pilot’s license costs around $10,000).

What is the demand for astronauts?

The competition for an astronaut is perhaps one of the highest in the world.

There are only a few places available in the country and few can meet all the requirements and pass the tests.

There are currently 45 active U.S. astronauts and 28 other astronauts who are employed by NASA but are not eligible to fly.

Is flying experience necessary?

No flying experience is required, any aviation experience, military or private, is beneficial to purchase. Acquiring 1,000 hours of jet piloting meets NASA’s “professional experience” requirement. Experience with jet aircraft is usually gained through the military.

How do I sign up as an astronaut?

Active duty military personnel and civilians must also apply through USAJOBs. Military personnel are also required to inform their commanders of their interest in the space program.

What are some tips to increase your chances of being selected as an astronaut candidate?

  1. Earn one or more advanced degrees in aviation-related engineering/technology fields
  2. Teach or work in engineering/technology for several years
  3. Get your diving certification and experience
  4. Get Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training.

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