How To Become An Astronaut And What To Study For This Career | Best graduate schools
If you dream of exploring distant lands, there are few more fun trips to imagine than the prospect of space travel.
Escaping from Earth’s orbit and seeing the planet from a distance is such an overwhelming experience that it’s hard to find an adequate adjective to describe what it feels like, according to retired astronaut Col. Mike Mullane, author of “Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut.”
At 12, he watched the launch of Sputnik, and that’s when he decided to work in the space industry and do his best to become an astronaut. “All of my energy was focused,” he says, adding that aspiring astronauts should “be tenacious”.
His son, Patrick Mullane – author of “The Father, Son, and Holy Shuttle: Growing Up an Astronaut’s Kid in the Glorious 80s” – points out that becoming an astronaut for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, is so difficult that no you have to have the power to do it. There is a lot of luck in getting such a coveted job, he says.
The extraordinary selectivity of the NASA astronaut program
“If you get the win don’t be arrogant about it because it could have been someone else, and if you get the loss make sure you don’t internalize it – that you are a failure and that you did not do it. do what you wanted to do and cannot do anything else ”, explains Patrick Mullane, who is also managing director of Harvard Business School Online.
International Space Hall of Fame inductee Mike Mullane notes that many people were as qualified to be an astronaut as he was, but he got the job when they weren’t. “If you’re an astronaut, you had an element of luck that got you there,” he says.
The last time NASA posted a job posting for astronaut positions, in 2020, the agency received more than 12,000 applications during the March 2-31 application period. The chosen astronaut class will begin training this summer.
During the 2020 application cycle, NASA received the second-highest number of astronaut applications it has ever received, just after the previous application cycle, where 18,300 people applied. But when comparing the number of applications received in 2020 with the previous application cycle, it should be noted that the 2020 application period was only half as long as the previous one and the academic requirements were more stringent in 2020.
Retired NASA astronaut Leland Melvin, inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, says some astronauts take longer to be chosen by NASA than others. He notes that even though he only applied once to the Astronaut Program, some people apply multiple times before being selected.
What astronauts do in space and on Earth
Astronauts play a crucial role in NASA scientific research.
“Our job is to work with people around the world to build vehicles and spacecraft to live safely in the space environment to explore the Universe,” Melvin wrote in an email. “We are performing cutting-edge biological and material research that can save lives on Earth, as well as observing Earth and monitoring changes as we fly around the planet every 90 minutes.”
Former astronauts say they constantly collaborated with their colleagues during their time as astronauts. They note that teamwork is crucial for anyone seeking this type of position, as NASA filters out job applicants who convey arrogance. The humility to recognize what one does not know is also vital to this profession, as is the ability to quickly learn new skills.
Former NASA astronaut Charles Camarda said one of the most exciting aspects of becoming an astronaut is using some of the space technology he and his colleagues have designed in a lab.
“We very rarely have the opportunity to find out how it is used in space, how it is tested in space and therefore, for me, it was an engineer’s dream,” explains Camarda, an engineer from research with bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees. engineering degrees.
Being an astronaut is exciting for anyone who enjoys designing and building technology, because the job is to test the limits of what technology can do, says Camarda, who was previously NASA’s senior innovation adviser. He notes that the extreme environment in space forces engineers to be creative. The absence of gravity in space poses significant challenges when performing everyday tasks.
An astronaut’s job isn’t limited to when he’s in space, according to NASA. “When astronauts aren’t flying on a mission or training for a mission, they are supporting other missions,” the NASA website says. “Many ground jobs are required to support the design, preparation, training and flight of a space mission.”
Stephanie Schierholz, public affairs manager for NASA’s exploration and human operations branch, said mission preparation and recovery take a long time.
“On Earth, astronauts participate in training to ensure their mastery of their missions,” she explained in an email. “Typically, astronauts spend years training for a mission, then spend about six months aboard the International Space Station during a mission, and spend time reconditioning afterwards.”
Schierholz notes that astronauts typically conduct science experiments during their missions. “The space station is a laboratory in orbit, and the astronauts on board typically support around 250 different researches during their six-month mission,” she said.
How to qualify for an astronaut job
The refusal to give up is a quality that is generally necessary to become an astronaut, according to people who got the job. Camarda notes that he traveled to space after overcoming claustrophobia and fear of heights.
Obtaining a graduate degree in a technical university discipline is vital for future NASA astronauts, as teams of astronauts must be able to work together to solve technical problems that arise on spacecraft, explains Camarda , assistant faculty member of the mechanical and aerospace engineering department. to New York University Tandon School of Engineering.
The minimum qualifications necessary to become an astronaut are listed on the NASA website. To become a NASA astronaut, someone must be a U.S. citizen and must obtain a master’s degree in biological sciences, physical sciences, computer science, engineering, or mathematics. Instead of the requirement of a master’s degree, a candidate may have a medical degree, take a test pilot program at a nationally recognized pilot school, or spend two years as a doctoral student in a scientific field, technological, technical or mathematical.
Technical education alone is not sufficient to become eligible for a career as an astronaut. In addition to college degrees, an aspiring astronaut needs two years of relevant work experience or 1,000 flight hours as a pilot-in-command on a jet aircraft. In addition, he or she must be able to pass a physical exam.
Former astronauts say one of the perks of trying to get into this competitive profession is that the necessary credentials are marketable for many other desirable positions, including research scientist positions and engineering jobs. .
“You have to choose an area of study that interests you; this will ensure that no matter what the course of your career is, you will be ready to do something personally satisfying,” Schierholz wrote in an email.
How long does it take to become an astronaut and what it’s like to be one
“Candidate astronauts undergo a training and assessment period lasting approximately two years, during which they will participate in the Basic Astronaut Candidate Training Program, which is designed to develop the required knowledge and skills. for formal on-mission training when selecting for a flight, ”Schierholz explains.
Candidate astronauts must pass a swimming test and subsequently become certified in scuba diving to prepare them for spacewalk training, she adds.
According to Schierholz, astronauts are paid at the GS-13 or GS-14 level. This translates into annual salaries ranging from $ 104,898 to $ 161,141. The precise salary of an astronaut depends on his credentials and his experience.
Bravery is required to choose this career path, experts say. “Living in space is not without risk”, underlines Schierholz. “Human spaceflight is risky, and spacewalks are among the riskiest activities astronauts undertake during a mission.”
Camarda says astronauts tend to be self-reliant. “If I’m going to think of any creative ways to inspire people to be astronauts, these aren’t the right people. These aren’t the people you want for the job. They have to have that inspiration from within.”
Astronauts are the kind of people who are emboldened when others tell them something is impossible and who are eager to pursue lunar ambitions, Camarda says.