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The arduous journey to becoming a NASA astronaut

Quá trình lựa chọn phi hành gia của NASA khá khắt khe

To become a NASA astronaut, candidates must go through many rigorous selection stages. But even if one is selected, there is no guarantee that one will be able to fly into space.

Becoming an astronaut is a huge commitment for everyone. Astronaut candidates – aspirants often selected between the ages of 30 and 40 – are forced to abandon their prestigious careers for the opportunity to fly in space, even when the chances are very slim.

Every year, the number of applicants participating in the space research program of the United States Space Agency (NASA) exceeds 18,000 people, and not everyone can pass the selection round.

Strict requirements

NASA has strict requirements for choosing someone to become an astronaut. This job requires not only good physical health, but also skills and techniques to undertake difficult work on a spacecraft or space station.

NASA’s basic requirement is a bachelor’s degree in engineering, biological sciences, physical sciences, computer science or mathematics, followed by three years of specialized experience (or 1,000 hours of jet mission command).

NASA's astronaut selection process is quite rigorous
NASA’s astronaut selection process is quite rigorous

NASA’s astronaut selection process is quite strict, with only a few dozen people selected from thousands of candidate profiles. (Photo: NASA)

Applicants must also pass the NASA Astronaut Physical Exam. However, there are many other skills to choose from, such as scuba diving, wilderness experience, leadership experience, and the ability to use different languages ​​(especially Russian, the language that all today’s astronauts must learn).

What an astronaut “padlock” looks like

NASA has conducted 22 astronaut training courses since the first group of astronauts was selected in 1959 for the Mercury program. The American space program has grown and evolved considerably since then.

Some of the earliest classes of astronauts were primarily recruited from the military, particularly from test pilots, a group considered ready for the extreme dangers of space. But as NASA’s program grows, it needs more diverse skills.

Notable astronaut classes include the fourth astronaut class (1969), known as “Scientists” including Harrison J. Schmitt, the only geologist to ever walk on the moon (Apollo 17 mission), the eighth class of 1978 (including female, African-American and Asian-American candidates), the 16th class in 1996 (the most large class, with 44 members selected for flights to build the International Space Station) and the 21st class in 2013 (the first class with a 50/50 split).

Vehicles used by American astronauts

Currently, American astronauts have more options for space missions, flying not only on American but also Russian spacecraft. Typically, the Soyuz spacecraft of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) for missions to the International Space Station ISS.

In the coming years, NASA hopes to go further beyond low Earth orbit on missions to the Moon and Mars via the agency’s Orion spacecraft.

Besides NASA and Roscosmos spacecraft, American and foreign astronauts can also use private spacecraft from SpaceX and Boeing for a space mission. Space travel could soon be privatized within the next 10 years.


Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

Russian Soyuz spacecraft. (Photo: NASĄ).

Where will the new astronauts go?

New astronauts could begin their careers by traveling to the International Space Station or on upcoming missions to the Moon. The ISS is expected to last until 2024, but could be extended until 2028 or even longer.

With the success of Artemis 1, the next destination for young astronauts will most likely be the Moon. If favorable, the plan to go to Mars in 2030 could also be a destination for new astronauts.

What do astronauts do?

Although the public is primarily interested in astronauts while they are in space, in reality, astronauts will only spend a small portion of their careers in the air. Most of their time will be spent training and supporting other tasks.

First, astronaut candidates will undergo about two years of basic training, during which they will learn survival training, languages, technical skills and other things they need to become an astronaut.

After graduation, new astronauts may be assigned to space missions or assigned technical roles in the astronaut office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. These roles may include supporting ongoing missions or advising NASA engineers on how to develop future spacecraft.


Most of the astronauts’ time will be spent training and supporting missions.

Most of the astronauts’ time will be spent on training and other tasks, with only a small portion of time devoted to space missions. (Photo: NASA)

Successfully complete the selection process

Of the 18,353 applications sent to NASA to become an astronaut, only a few were selected. Initially, NASA’s human resources department reviews each candidate to see whether or not they meet basic standards. Each qualified candidate will then be reviewed by a panel – the Astronaut Evaluation Committee.

The evaluation committee includes about 50 people, mostly current astronauts. The board will select a few hundred candidates with the highest qualifications, then check each candidate’s references.

After the first stage, the number of applicants dropped to only 120 people. The astronaut selection board will then call these candidates for interviews and medical examinations. The top 50 candidates undergo a second round of interviews and further medical examinations. The final astronaut candidates will be selected from this group of 50 people.

How are astronaut candidates informed?

The lucky shortlisted candidates received a phone call from the Chief of Flight Operations at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, as well as the Chief of the Astronaut Office. NASA is asking applicants to share the news only with their immediate family until NASA can make an official announcement.

NASA often holds a press conference to announce new candidates and invites journalists and people with social media accounts to ask questions about the new class of astronauts. Then, candidates quickly rush to the training, leaving them very little time to interact with the outside world, at least for a few months.

Article source: VTC

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To become a NASA astronaut, candidates must go through many rigorous selection stages. But even if you are selected, there is no guarantee…

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