Exploring space and discovering the unexplored unknowns of the universe is a dream come true for many aspiring students. Thus, becoming an astronaut opens up ample opportunities to do these and more. You get to study various aspects of the universe. Also, you get a chance to observe the world from above.
So, if you dream of becoming an astronaut, you must undergo rigorous training. However, before beginning the journey, you must fulfill specific qualifications and requirements. This article will highlight everything you need to know to become an astronaut. So, let’s begin!
What Do Astronauts Do?
Apart from space exploration, astronauts have a crucial role in research work. For instance, they work with engineers and companies that build equipment for space travel.
Also, astronauts provide valuable insights into the space environment. They help design and construct spacecraft and aero vehicles for safer space living and exploration.
They also go around the earth, surveying the planet and tracking changes. In addition, they conduct various biological research to formulate effective solutions that can save earthly lives.
The Process to Become an Astronaut
Becoming an astronaut is not easy. You need to work hard to achieve the skills and qualifications necessary to become an astronaut. It also requires you to have team spirit and the ability to collaborate with colleagues. You must be capable of adapting too, as you get to do things you have never done before.
In addition to the essential academic qualifications, an astronaut should also be compassionate. They should exude humility and pick up new skills quickly. You also need to be brave and ready to take on challenges.
NASA receives thousands of applications during its job postings for the astronaut position. However, only a handful get selected. This is because it has strict qualification requirements and a stringent selection process regimen.
Essential Requirements to Become a NASA Astronaut
As NASA keeps expanding its deep space exploration, it requires more astronauts. If you wish to join NASA as an astronaut, you must fulfill the following eligibility criteria.
- You must be an American citizen.
- You need to have an aggregate of 65% in academics.
- You must have a Master’s degree in a STEM field (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). It includes physical science, mathematics, engineering, computer science, and biology. Also, you should have obtained it from an accredited institution.
- You must have a minimum professional experience of 2 years in a related field or 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time on jets.
- You will have to pass the physical test for NASA long-duration flights.
Note: You can show teaching experience at K-12 levels as a qualifying experience.
You can meet the Master’s degree requirement by doing the following:
Working for 2 years in a Ph.D. program in the STEM field
Completing a nationally recognized test pilot program
Completing a doctor of osteopathic or doctor of medicine degree
Apart from the mentioned prerequisites, you should also work on making your resume stand out. You must make it unique by showcasing your skillset and experience.
What Happens After Selection?
Once you fulfill all the criteria, you’ll have to undergo personal interviews that last a week. Then, there is a medical screening and orientation program.
After you are selected to become an astronaut, you will enter the training and evaluation stage. Selected candidates go through a formal training program for 2 years at NASA. It enables candidates to develop their knowledge and skills. It also helps them prepare for formal missions when they get selected to fly into space.
During the training, candidates must acquire water survival and SCUBA diving qualifications. It will help them prepare for spacewalks.
Besides, selected candidates get exposed to low and high atmospheric pressures. It helps them get adjusted to the related problems in space. They also need to endure microgravity.
Once the candidate completes the training and evaluation period, they enter the final stage. To successfully graduate through the Astronaut Candidate Program, candidates must undergo the following.
- International Space Station Systems Training
- Russian Language Training
- Extravehicular Activity (EA) skills training
- Robotic skills training
- Aircraft flight readiness training
How to Prepare Yourself to Become an Astronaut?
To kick start your journey to becoming an astronaut, you can begin small. So, here are some of the steps you can take to start your astronaut journey.
Do Internships at NASA
You can start by doing NASA internships and work your way up. You don’t always have to be an astronaut to work for NASA.
Many prominent astronauts begin their careers as interns at NASA. If you have a STEM background, you can apply for internships through their official website.
Take Up Artemis Student Challenges
You can show your creativity by participating in Artemis Student Challenges. These include space exploration challenges that require you to apply your academic knowledge. You can also participate in science and engineering fairs to exhibit your skills.
Some challenges include the Human Exploration Rover Challenge, First Nations Launch, Micro-g Neutral Buoyancy Experiment Design Teams (Micro-G NExT), Student Launch, First Nation Launch, Lunabotics, Spacesuit User Interface Technologies for Students (S.U.I.T.S.), and the Big Idea Challenge.
Go to Graduate and Professional Schools or Apply to a Pilot Training Program
Plan your career to become an astronaut and strive to achieve the necessary academic qualifications. For example, you need a Master’s degree in a STEM field, a doctorate in medicine or osteopathic medicine, or work towards a Ph.D.
Thus, you can earn a graduate degree with good grades and plan your education to be in a position as an astronaut. You can also qualify by getting into an accredited test of the pilot school program and completing it.
Becoming an astronaut is a long and challenging process. You need to be highly focused and driven to make it there.
NASA is one of the coveted spots for astronauts. And to get there, you need to show your passion and a willingness to adapt.
Prior and current astronauts say that only a tiny fraction of the applications get selected for the position. Hence, the competition is relatively high. However, you can make it with your enthusiasm, skills, and qualifications! So, you should keep trying even if you don’t get it the first time.