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How to Become an Astronaut?

Being an astronaut is an ambition you should not set out to achieve without first knowing the hard work needed. It takes years of education and training before you can even apply to become an astronaut. Once you are accepted into the program, you will go through rigorous classes that teach engineering, biology, chemistry, geology, math, and physics. It also takes physical strength to be an astronaut; there is no other way around it. If you are interested in becoming an astronaut, keep reading.

What does astronaut mean?

Astronaut is an English word that came from a Greek word which means ‘Star Sailor.’ And naturally, we can call astronauts the star sailors. Because all their work is in the land of the stars, they have to go on a ship (spaceship) and do research there.

How to become an astronaut?

It is a question that has been asked by many over the years. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to become an astronaut as you need to go through some steps. You need to be in excellent shape, have a college degree in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), and pass a rigorous selection process. There are many different ways to prepare for a career as an astronaut, but the ultimate goal is the same. Hence, the requirements remain the same.

When it comes to recruiting astronauts, NASA doesn’t employ a massive workforce. At present NASA has 48 active astronauts and so far, around 600 people went to space in the last 50 years. So, you can understand how hard it is to land your career as an astronaut.

Anyone, civilian or military, can apply to become an astronaut. However, some qualifications are required to apply. These are described one by one below:

Educational requirement

First of all, the person has to be a US citizen. In the case of education, NASA is very strict and the person should have a master’s degree with an excellent result in a STEM field. The degree can be in engineering, computer science, biological science, mathematics, or physical science. Candidates may also possess a Ph.D. degree in the related field, a completed doctor of medicine or medical degree in doctor of osteopathic, or completion of a nationally recognized test pilot school program.

Physical fitness

In addition to a strong educational background, your physical fitness should be NASA standard. Your height cannot be too short or too high. The candidate must stand between 5’2” and 6’3” in height which is between 62 and 75 inches.

For eyesight, 20/20 vision is needed and this cannot exceed 140/90 in the normal sitting position. The prospective astronauts should also pass the swimming test. The selected candidate will have to go through military water survival training and the person will also need scuba certification. Therefore, strong swimming skills are also necessary.

Flight experience

According to NASA, the candidate needs to have professional flight test experience, which will help them to launch the aircraft. The person might require 1,000 hours of jet aircraft pilot-in-command time. However, commercial pilots may also be eligible to apply if they have 1,500 hours of flight time.

Selection process and Training

All civilian and military candidates have to go through a week-long process, where they have to face personal interviews, medical examinations, orientations.

Training

The selected applicants enter into an agreement with the organization concerned. (In the case of NASA, it is the astronaut’s office at the Johnson Space Station in Houston, Texas.) This was followed by two years of continuous training. It teaches everything about the space exploration mission. Military candidates, on the other hand, continue to improve their experience with NASA aircraft.

Candidates have to pass the swimming test in the first month of the training. They have to finish the swimming syllabus before starting the flying syllabus. They also need to be SCUBA qualified for spacewalk training. SCUBA is an underwater swimming pool with a supply of compressed air. Candidates have to swim 3 times in a 25-meter-long pool without stopping.

Then they have to do the same thing again wearing spacesuits and tennis suits; However, in the second case, there is no set time for completion of the work. Candidates are exposed to high and low atmospheric pressure in a high chamber so that they can get an idea of the problems that may arise in such situations and apply them in the mission.

The candidates are then made to feel artificial weightlessness on a jet aircraft, which lasts about 20 seconds. And the process continues about 40 times a day for 20 seconds each time. Further, NASA uses Zero G flight to give a feel of the actual weightlessness.

Training in Zero G flight training

And the selection of astronauts for space missions is based on the successful completion of these tests or training. However, successful completion of some other training such as International Space Station systems training, Russian Language training, Extravehicular Activity skills training, Aircraft Flight readiness training, and Robotics skills training is required for final selection. Civilian candidates who cannot be selected as astronauts are appointed to the respective institutions according to their qualifications, subject to vacancies.

Special training

After being finally selected, the astronauts have to face the most difficult training. Spacecraft trainers teach them every detail of Aircraft Systems including operating spacecraft. So that they can come over any kind of problem on the mission.

Challenges faced by the Astronauts

Astronauts in space have to deal with a number of problems. Lack of gravity can cause headaches, nausea, and loss of appetite. Many people sometimes feel as if a subatomic bullet is coming through their eyeballs.

Some people feel that there is an abnormal flash of light coming out of their eyes. None of this is good for the human eye. About three-quarters of astronauts have suffered eye problems after the mission.

Due to the absence of gravitational force, it is sometimes the case that some of the astronauts continue to feel that their body is leaning forward. The astronaut may not even feel exactly where his limbs are. About half the astronauts suffer from this problem; This is called “Space Adaptation Syndrome.”

Career prospects and salary

No matter how you prepare, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to become an astronaut. But, if you have the passion and determination, then you can achieve your dream of becoming an astronaut!

The NASA astronauts make around $24,079 to $640,817 a year which is around BDT 26 lakhs to BDT 5.5 crore a year. The median salary is $116,165 equivalent to BDT 99 lakhs. However, the top 86% of NASA astronauts make $640,817 or BDT 5.5 crore a year.

Final Words

Many people have a misguided view of astronauts as being just pilots that have been lucky enough to have been chosen for their dream job. Hopefully, this article will work as a brief guide for people who want to be astronauts.

Source: United News of Bangladesh