An elite few: Since 1959, NASA has selected only 339 astronauts
Many of us dream of becoming an astronaut but only a few are chosen. (Photo by Nancy Stone)
Many of us dream of becoming an astronaut but only a few are chosen. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency responsible for spaceflight and the key to making your dream a reality.
Including the "Original Seven," only 339 astronauts have been selected to date by NASA.
There are three types of astronauts in the U.S. program: 1. Commander/pilot, 2. Mission specialist and 3. Payload specialist.
NASA selects astronauts from a diverse pool of applicants with a wide variety of backgrounds. The minimum degree requirement for an astronaut is a bachelor's. Your grades should also allow you to enroll in a solid Master of Science program.
Choosing a scientific field is helpful but not mandatory. Possibilities include biology, chemistry, physics, aerospace engineering and mathematics. After you get your degree you should then focus on the following:
• Three years of related experience after obtaining your bachelor's degree. Note: A master's degree equals one year of experience and a doctorate equals three years.
• Passing the NASA space physical examination. Pilots need to pass a Class I physical. Mission and payload specialists must pass Class II. Both are similar to civilian and military flight examinations.
• Obtain more than 1,000 hours experience as pilot-in-command of a jet aircraft (pilots only)
Physical condition is extremely important. Astronauts have to undergo intensive periods of training for stamina and conditioning. The ability to get along well with others and an affinity for teamwork and adaptability are essential too.
Lastly, there are height requirements. You must be between 5 feet 4 inches and 6 feet 4 inches tall to be a pilot, and between 4 feet 10 1/2 inches and 6 feet 4 inches to be a mission specialist.
To apply for a position, submit an application to NASA. If selected, you will report to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, where you will train as an astronaut candidate for two years.
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