HOW TO BECOME AN ASTRONAUT

Posted by Beverley Smith on

If you ask a lot of kids what they would like to be when they grow up, it is almost certain that most of these kids will say that they want to be an astronaut. However, things have evolved since the early Mercury missions, when astronaut candidates were often selected mainly from the military and have to go through rigorous tests. Although astronauts can come from various backgrounds and culture, there are some important factors that will be considered before they can become astronauts. Some of these factors include;

1.      CITIZENSHIP

The first factor that should be taken into consideration if you want to become an astronaut is citizenship. It is important that you are a citizen of a country that has a space agency and the ability to send humans to space. Because, even if your country has a space agency, it may not have the ability and resources to send you to space and you will likely be relegated to groundwork. And although a lot of countries are starting to get into the space race in one way or the other, China, Russia, EU (European Union), and the United States are the front runners of the space race.

However, in the past, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has been able to send astronauts from countries with which they have an international agreement like Russia, Canada, Brazil, and Japan. However, all of these countries often have a space agency.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is often in cooperation with other agencies to send its astronauts to space on their rockets. Presently, about twenty countries are in the European Space Agency and they include;

  • Finland
  • Greece
  • Germany
  • Romania
  • The United Kingdom
  • Sweden
  • Austria
  • Spain
  • Belgium
  • Switzerland
  • Portugal
  • Czech Republic
  • Poland
  • Denmark
  • Norway
  • France
  • Netherlands
  • Ireland
  • Luxembourg
  • Italy
2.      AGE

This is another important factor to take into consideration if you want to become an astronaut. Space agencies do not often allow senior citizens to become astronauts. For instance, the age range for becoming an astronaut for the ESA is between 27 and 37 years old. However, NASA does not seem to have age restrictions for people that want to become an astronaut. 

 

3.      HEIGHT

Height is another important factor that most space agencies often take into considerations when they are looking for astronauts. For instance, the ESA often accepts candidates that have a height that falls within the range of 153 to 190 centimeters (that is 5 inches to 6½ inches) and NASA often accepts candidates that have a height within the range of 5’2” to 6’3” (that is 157 to 190.5 centimeters).

 

4.      PHYSICAL SCREENING

If you want to become an astronaut, it is important that you pass your physical screening with flying colors. For NASA candidates, their near and far vision must be correctable to 20/20 in each eye, and for their physical health, their blood pressure must not be above 140/90 when they are sitting down.

And after the first sets of testing, you will have to go through additional visual screening where your distant vision refractive error will be tested (it should be between +5.50 and -5.50 diopters if you have no prior piloting experience and between +2.50 and -4.00 diopters if you have prior piloting experience. Also, candidates with astigmatism problems that require more than 3.00 diopters of cylinder correction (if they do not have piloting experience) or 2.00 diopters (if they have piloting experience) cannot be allowed to become astronauts. Candidates with anisometropia larger than 3.5 diopters (if they do not have piloting experience) or 2.5 diopters (if they have piloting experience) are also not accepted.

The ESA also has similar physical requirements and they often require their candidates to be psychologically sound.

 

5.      LANGUAGE

If you are going to space, it is very important for you to be able to speak and understand English. This is because of the fact that when you get to the International Space Station, you will be working with people from almost all nationality. However, understanding Russian is also helpful because of the fact that Russian has a great influence on space relations. ESA and NASA often have candidates that are fluent in both English and Russian.

 

6.      SWIMMING

As a result of the fact that the phenomenon of gravity, daily air living is not great for simulating the likes of the universe. This is why some of the physical training will be done underwater. So, if you are unable to swim, you probably cannot become an astronaut. NASA often makes sure that their candidates can survive in the water for 10 minutes while swimming about 75 meters in a flight suit and being SCUBA qualified.

 

7.      EDUCATION

This factor is often considered as one of the most important factors to take into consideration if you want to become an astronaut. This is the first necessary requirement. Astronauts are required to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as Physical Science, Computer Science, Mathematics, Biological Science and Engineering. This degree should be gotten from an accredited institution. Also, getting a Master’s degree or a Doctorate will improve your chance. However, it is also very important to make sure that you excel in your classes and make sure you have amazing grades.

 

8.      EXPERIENCE

This is also considered as one of the most important factors to take into consideration if you want to become an astronaut. Candidates are often required to have some form of professional experience or form of a degree. If you decide to get a degree, you should know that a Master’s degree counts as one year experience and a Ph.D. as three years of experience regardless of the amount of time required to get the degree.

However, if you have some prior piloting background, you must have at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. You should also ensure that you have flight test experience. If you are looking for a way to get professional experience, you can simply get a job related to something an astronaut would have to do in space. Examples of these jobs include Piloting, chemistry/Biology, Commanding a ship, Navigation or working with computers.

 

REFERENCES

WikiHow

The Guardian

NASA

Space

Chronicles Live  

English, French, German, Italian, Russian, Spain

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