- How to become an astronaut: the qualifications
- How do NASA astronauts train
- How to become a SpaceX or Blue Origin astronaut
- Becoming an astronaut: transferable skills
- Psychological and physical requirements
- How much does an astronaut earn?
- How to support your little astronaut
If you have just asked your children "What do you want to be when you grow up?" and in response, you got a "How do you become an astronaut?". You might feel a bit stumped. Follow this short guide because we will see what steps to take to explore space.
There is no single way to become an astronaut because the role requires a mix of qualifications, niche skills, and personal qualities. However, below you will find some pointers you can talk with your child about.
Let’s boldly go! 🚀
How to become an astronaut: the qualifications
Being an astronaut is one of the most incredible experiences one can imagine. The footage of the recent NASA Space X Crew missions to the ISS and cutting-edge technology, such as reusable rocket boosters, is awe-inspiring. 🌌
But how does one become an astronaut? These are the requirements NASA candidates have to meet to be considered for the Astronaut program.
- U.S. citizenship
- A master’s university degree in a STEM field such as math and AI computing
- 2 years of professional experience or 1000 hours of flight time logged as a pilot on jet aircraft.
- Pass the NASA Long-Duration Flight Physical
In terms of alternative qualifications to be considered for NASA’s astronaut program, these are some options. ✏️
- Doctoral work spanning two years in a scientific field.
- Having completed a Doctor of Medicine or Osteopathic Medicine degree.
- Being enrolled or have graduated from a recognised test pilot flight school.
How do NASA astronauts train
There are different types of astronauts that work at NASA. Each one has a special set of skills and training suitable for a variety of space missions. 👩🚀
To train astronauts, NASA has purpose-built facilities to make sure their astronaut trainees can get all the practice they need for complex maneuvers in space. Let’s take a look at where NASA trains its astronauts.
Space Vehicle Mock-up facility
NASA has accurate models of its spacecraft so that astronauts can jump in and practice various technical procedures at different points in a mission, from launch to landing. The mock-ups also let astronauts develop their problem-solving skills since they can roleplay various unexpected scenarios safely. 👾
Neutral Buoyancy Lab
The neutral buoyancy lab is essentially a big pool with mockups of space vehicles in it. Astronauts get into the water wearing their spacesuits and this lets them practice their EVA (Extra Vehicular Activity) routines—basically what’s like to work in outer space while wearing a bulky spacesuit. 🧑🚀
KC-135 jet plane
This NASA airplane looks like a regular airliner from the outside. However, inside most of the seats have been taken out so that astronauts have room to get a feel for what low gravity is like. How can astronauts float in earth-gravity? You might ask. Don’t worry it’s not alien technology, just physics. 📈
The more you know
Here’s the secret: The NASA plane with its astronaut trainees on board flies a series of steep climbs and dives at a safe altitude. When the plane dives steeply, the NASA trainees inside get to experience a few seconds of weightlessness! ✈️
Precision Air-Bearing Floor
Reduced gravity in space sounds like a lot of fun but it can be a bit tricky if you are trying to move a heavy object carefully while planet Earth is spinning right below you!
This is where the precision air-bearing floor comes in. The name makes it sound complicated but this is basically a life-size air hockey table. It lets astronauts get a feel for how objects move when there is no friction or gravity to stop them.
How to become a SpaceX or Blue Origin astronaut
How humans travel to space is changing quickly. Only a few years ago, space exploration was handled by government agencies like NASA and ESA, now private companies are starting to have an impact.
SpaceX and Blue Origin are two companies that have been in the news a lot. Let's take a closer look at what they do in space.
SpaceX was founded by Elon Musk and is best known for its reusable rocket technology which lowers the cost of sending humans and satellites into orbit.
SpaceX does not have its own astronauts currently. Instead, it is contracted by the United States to send NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). To become an astronaut that flies on a SpaceX rocket, you currently need to join NASA.
Blue Origin was founded by Jeff Bezos, better known for starting Amazon, to lower the cost of space travel. Unlike SpaceX, Blue Origin does have its own astronauts.
Blue Origin astronauts get to space using the New Shepard reusable rocket. You only need a few days of training with Blue Origin to become an astronaut.
To become a Blue Origin astronaut, you can do one of the following:
- Fill out an application on the Blue Origin website.
- Join the Club For The Future.
Being selected as a Blue Origin astronaut is currently a long shot because flight slots are limited. Most recent Blue Origin astronauts have been wealthy individuals like Jeff Bezos himself, famous actors like William Shatner from Star Trek fame, and sponsored citizen astronauts selected by Space For Humanity.
Becoming an astronaut: transferable skills
Other minimum requirements for working at NASA include three basic skills:
- Flexibility, in dealing with irregular work days, (space) travel, and being away from loved ones and family
- The ability to remain calm and manage stress
- Strong learning skills
- Willingness to participate in scientific experiments
Knowing more than one language can be really helpful in space. For example, Russian is considered the second official language of the ISS. However, this is not mandatory since there will be plenty There will be no shortage of opportunities to learn foreign languages as an astronaut.
Astronauts need to have good critical thinking skills. This is not just for scientific experiments and maintenance carried out in space but also for troubleshooting issues when things don’t go as planned. ☄️
An astronaut must be able to communicate in simple words to an audience of adults and children their experiences and their knowledge, without forgetting the emotions of being in space.
An astronaut's ability to react is physical, technical, and emotional. NASA seeks candidates who can make the right decision in a very short time by demonstrating excellent stress and risk management skills.
By the way, those who are accustomed to working in high-risk settings, such as the military or technicians working in emergencies, and those involved in extreme sports will have a similar mindset.
An astronaut team is composed of a set of specialized professionals with interdisciplinary backgrounds: biologists, physicists, mathematicians, engineers, botanists, test pilots, and computer scientists.
Knowing how to work as a team is therefore critical to ensuring the success of a mission and the well-being of all crew members. Another very important aspect is the constant willingness to learn.
Psychological and physical requirements
Once selected, astronauts will have to undergo a period of education and training, including demanding physical training. Don't forget that going into space requires demonstrating strong physical endurance to weightlessness and microgravity. 🧑🚀
Those who already have significant flying experience are definitely at an advantage, but those who do water sports such as scuba diving also have some transferable skills!
In the past, there were also precise physical requirements such as minimum and maximum height that have now changed. A recent announcement broadened the physical requirements for the astronaut program, making the job more inclusive.
How much does an astronaut earn?
NASA Astronauts are paid according to a government pay scale. Astronauts are placed on the GS-12 and 13 grades, according to the Office of Personnel Management.
This means that astronauts can earn anywhere between $66K and $100K over their career. The exact pay for an astronaut depends on their experience, professional qualifications, and promotions. It’s clear that people don’t become astronauts for the money, there are deeper motivations that drive those who go where not many humans have gone before.
How to support your little astronaut
To help your children become astronauts you can:
⭐ Encourage curiosity around STEM subjects. Consider online tutoring in math and science for your child.
⭐ Encourage both their academic and athletic sides. This will help them develop into a well-rounded person.
⭐ Get your child to be part of groups, such as Boy or Girl Scouts, to foster their teamwork and communication skills.
⭐ Consider enrolling your child in space camp or a similar program to foster their interest in applied STEM topics.