It is a long rocky road to become an astronaut, but for those who make the grade, the experience can literally be out of this world. Since NASA only considers the best of the best for its space program, starting your education with a strong background in science and math while still in high school is a great first step for those who wish to fly among the stars.
Although an advanced degree is desirable, the basic requirements of education for an astronaut are a bachelor’s degree in biological science, physical science or mathematics. NASA also states on their website that the quality of academic preparation is important, so students interested in becoming astronauts should plan to study as much science and math as possible before entering college. Since NASA works in conjunction with space programs in other countries, learning foreign languages such as Russian, Chinese, French and Japanese might also be helpful.
Those interested in commander and pilot astronauts jobs must have flight training. This includes at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. While military flight training is not required, it is often the most expedient way to gain the needed hours of training and the biographies of astronauts employed by NASA do tend to show that most astronauts have a military background. Mission specialists are not required to have flight training, however, they do need at least three years of professional-related experience.
Both pilot astronauts and mission specialists are required to take and pass a physical. This physical is similar in nature to the type of physicals that military and civilian pilots are required to take. This involves a sight and hearing test, as well as a general physical. The physician also discusses past medical history and goes over the list of any medications that the astronaut is currently taking. Interestingly, there is also a height requirement for astronauts. Pilots are required to be between 62 and 75 inches in height, while mission specialists must have a height of 58.5 to 76 inches.
You might think the only way to work for NASA and travel into space is to become an astronaut, however, additional crew members known as payload specialists may be added to missions when specialized on-board duties are required. Payload specialists must have the education and training experience specific to these specialized duties and must also pass a physical, although the standards of the physical vary based on classification.
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