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What Are the Requirements to Become an Astronaut?

written by: VinceSummers•edited by: RC Davison•updated: 3/26/2011

This article discusses what it takes to become an astronaut—the requirements—including physical training, educational background and related experience necessary to fly in space.

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    Basic Qualifications

    It is necessary to apply to NASA to become an astronaut; however you will need extensive qualifications that include a technical education first. If selected, there is considerable additional training you will undergo, plus you could wait years before being chosen to go on an actual mission.

    If you desire to qualify to be an astronaut; you will need to know the basic exactly what is required. For example, you must have at least a Bachelor's degree in a relevant science. It could be biology, mathematics, engineering or some other physical science. An advanced degree, such as a Master's or Doctorate is preferred. In order to become a pilot with NASA you have to have amassed at least 1,000 hours of pilot in command time. You must be able to pass a rigorous physical test, have correctable 20/20 vision, pass a blood pressure text and be between 64 and 76 inches tall.1 You must possess United States citizenship. Civilians and military personnel, both, are encouraged to apply for NASA astronaut positions.

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    Training and Screening

    Astronaut Bruce McCandless, Image courtesy of NASA Those interested in serving as astronauts must be dedicated and possess strong endurance. Before consideration proceeds, would-be astronauts must go through an initial screening process. The process includes personal interviews, medical testing and an orientation to the NASA selection process. Ofttimes people wait for long periods before being informed they have been selected as a candidate. Once selected, they must go through two years of extensive training. During this period they attend scientific seminars or classes and participate in practical training, including the use of a space suit and how to fly a space shuttle.

    After all this, the candidates face the arduous task of waiting. If a mission comes along, NASA chooses who they think will be the best fit for that particular mission. The first suitable opportunity may take years to arrive. The position of astronaut requires one who doesn't lack patience. Once selected for a mission, more training awaits—a minimum of at least six more months. That training is mission-specific.

    An astronaut inductee is subject to all sorts of tests requiring physical and mental endurance. The candidate must have the ability to swim three laps in a 25-meter pool without stopping. He or she must also be able to swim while wearing a flight suit and shoes. He needs to be able to tread water, suited up, for a continuous ten minutes. Mission candidates are subjected to high and low atmospheric pressure—to microgravity and intense G-forces. Training includes the ability to handle any sort of emergency during a mission. If the candidate is able to make it through this strenuous process from beginning to end and NASA is satisfied with his level of performance, he will be selected to become a permanent astronaut. If, however, one is rejected for a particular mission, NASA will place set him aside for another opportunity. “Once you become an astronaut at NASA you will be expected to remain as an employee with NASA for at least five years.”2

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    NASA and Your Future

    Astronaut on Moon NASA intends to revisit the moon and establish a base station on the moon. Perhaps by the year 2020 there will be an outpost on the moon. A base on the moon could serve as a launching site to the planets. There is talk of civilian space travel to and from the moon. NASA receives thousands of applications. Out of those, only a few hundred have been chosen to become full-fledged astronauts. However, jobs are still open should you wish to choose flying in space for your occupation.

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    References and Resources

    1 National Aeronautics and Space Administration - Atronaut Requirements

    2 National Aeronautics and Space Administration - Astronaut Candidates

    3 National Aeronautics and Space Administration - Astronaut Selection

    4 Funtoosh - Suited Astronaut Image