How to Become an Astronaut

Have you ever wondered how to become an astronaut? NASA astronauts specialize in performing a number of functions and the qualifications vary, depending on the position. Crew members on board the International Space Station work in one of the following roles:

• Commander
• Pilot
• Mission Specialist

Each role has its own requirements, and all applicants to the Astronaut Candidate Program must be United States citizens.

Commander and Pilot Astronaut

Commanders and pilot astronauts work on board the space shuttle and the International Space Station. While a space vessel is in flight, the commander is responsible for the vehicle, the safety of the crew and ensuring a successful mission. The pilot works with the commander to control and operate the vehicle.

Astronaut pilots must have a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited school in one of the following:

• Biological Science
• Engineering
• Physical Science
• Mathematics

Pilots and commanders must also have at least 1,000 hours in a jet aircraft (as a pilot in command) and be able to pass the NASA space physical, which includes these standards:

• Height requirement: 62-75 inches
• Blood pressure: 140/90 (measured while the candidate is seated)
• Distance vision of 20/100 or better (uncorrected) and 20/20 correctable in each eye

Mission Specialist Astronaut

Mission specialist astronauts are responsible for coordinating operations on a mission in different areas, including:

• Activity planning for the crew
• Payload operations
• Systems
• Usage of consumables

Along with a Bachelor’s degree in one of the degree programs listed for a commander/pilot astronaut, a mission specialist must have a minimum of three years of professional experience. Graduate degree holders are preferred for these positions.

Height requirements for mission specialists are 58.5-76 inches. Applicants must pass a NASA space physical, which is similar to the exams conducted on military or civilian flight personnel. Specific standards which must be met include:

Blood pressure: 140/90 when candidate is seated
Distance vision: 20/200 uncorrected or better (uncorrected) and correctable to 20/20 in each eye

Screening Process to Become an Astronaut

Once an initial application to become an astronaut has been received, a preliminary screening is performed. In some cases, additional information is requested from an applicant and at this point, his or her supervisors and references may be contacted. Candidates who are on the short list for an interview may be asked to undergo a flight physical.

The next stage of assessing candidates is a week-long process. Applicants participate in personal interviews, a medical screening and attend an orientation program. You will participate in more interviews and a complete medical evaluation before final selection. Complete background checks are performed on candidates selected as Astronaut Candidates.

Astronaut Candidate Training

If you are selected for the Astronaut Candidate program, you will go to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX. The program lasts for two years, and during this time you will learn formal missions training to prepare you for going into space.

If you are wondering how to become an astronaut, the answer is that you will need to get a post-secondary degree and meet certain physical requirements before you will be considered for the Space Program.

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