SPACE/ASTRONAUT - How to Become an Astronaut

Last-modified: $Date: 94/03/01 17:24:33 $


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the astronaut-selection process. If you would like to join, send mail to (contact
geoff@hisnext.Stanford.EDU (Geoffrey Rutledge)).

First the short form, authored by Henry Spencer, then an official NASA

Q. How do I become an astronaut?

A. We will assume you mean a NASA astronaut, since it's probably
impossible for a non-Russian to get into the cosmonaut corps (paying
passengers are not professional cosmonauts), and the other nations have
so few astronauts (and fly even fewer) that you're better off hoping to
win a lottery. Becoming a shuttle pilot requires lots of fast-jet
experience, which means a military flying career; forget that unless you
want to do it anyway. So you want to become a shuttle "mission

If you aren't a US citizen, become one; that is a must. After that,
the crucial thing to remember is that the demand for such jobs vastly
exceeds the supply. NASA's problem is not finding qualified people,
but thinning the lineup down to manageable length. It is not enough
to be qualified; you must avoid being *dis*qualified for any reason,
many of them in principle quite irrelevant to the job.

Get a Ph.D. Specialize in something that involves getting your hands
dirty with equipment, not just paper and pencil. Forget computer
programming entirely; it will be done from the ground for the fore-
seeable future. Degree(s) in one field plus work experience in
another seems to be a frequent winner.

Be in good physical condition, with good eyesight. (DO NOT get a
radial keratomy or similar hack to improve your vision; nobody knows
what sudden pressure changes would do to RKed eyes, and long-term
effects are poorly understood. For that matter, avoid any other
significant medical unknowns.) If you can pass a jet-pilot physical,
you should be okay; if you can't, your chances are poor.

Practise public speaking, and be conservative and conformist in
appearance and actions; you've got a tough selling job ahead, trying
to convince a cautious, conservative selection committee that you
are better than hundreds of other applicants. (And, also, that you
will be a credit to NASA after you are hired: public relations is
a significant part of the job, and NASA's image is very prim and
proper.) The image you want is squeaky-clean workaholic yuppie.
Remember also that you will need a security clearance at some point,
and Security considers everybody guilty until proven innocent.
Keep your nose clean.

Get a pilot's license and make flying your number one hobby;
experienced pilots are known to be favored even for non-pilot jobs.

Work for NASA; of 45 astronauts selected between 1984 and 1988,
43 were military or NASA employees, and the remaining two were
a NASA consultant and Mae Jemison (the first black female astronaut).
If you apply from outside NASA and miss, but they offer you a job
at NASA, ***TAKE IT***; sometimes in the past this has meant "you
do look interesting but we want to know you a bit better first".

Think space: they want highly motivated people, so lose no chance
to demonstrate motivation.

Keep trying. Many astronauts didn't make it the first time.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center
Houston, Texas

Announcement for Mission Specialist and Pilot Astronaut Candidates

Astronaut Candidate Program

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has a need for
Pilot Astronaut Candidates and Mission Specialist Astronaut Candidates
to support the Space Shuttle Program. NASA is now accepting on a
continuous basis and plans to select astronaut candidates as needed.

Persons from both the civilian sector and the military services will be

All positions are located at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in
Houston, Texas, and will involved a 1-year training and evaluation

Space Shuttle Program Description

The numerous successful flights of the Space Shuttle have demonstrated
that operation and experimental investigations in space are becoming
routine. The Space Shuttle Orbiter is launched into, and maneuvers in
the Earth orbit performing missions lastling up to 30 days. It then
returns to earth and is ready for another flight with payloads and
flight crew.

The Orbiter performs a variety of orbital missions including deployment
and retrieval of satellites, service of existing satellites, operation
of specialized laboratories (astronomy, earth sciences, materials
processing, manufacturing), and other operations. These missions will
eventually include the development and servicing of a permanent space
station. The Orbiter also provides a staging capability for using higher
orbits than can be achieved by the Orbiter itself. Users of the Space
Shuttle's capabilities are both domestic and foreign and include
government agencies and private industries.

The crew normally consists of five people - the commander, the pilot,
and three mission specialists. On occasion additional crew members are
assigned. The commander, pilot, and mission specialists are NASA

Pilot Astronaut

Pilot astronauts server as both Space Shuttle commanders and pilots.
During flight the commander has onboard responsibility for the vehicle,
crew, mission success and safety in flight. The pilot assists the
commander in controlling and operating the vehicle. In addition, the
pilot may assist in the deployment and retrieval of satellites utilizing
the remote manipulator system, in extra-vehicular activities, and other
payload operations.

Mission Specialist Astronaut

Mission specialist astronauts, working with the commander and pilot,
have overall responsibility for the coordination of Shuttle operations
in the areas of crew activity planning, consumables usage, and
experiment and payload operations. Mission specialists are required to
have a detailed knowledge of Shuttle systems, as well as detailed
knowledge of the operational characteristics, mission requirements and
objectives, and supporting systems and equipment for each of the
experiments to be conducted on their assigned missions. Mission
specialists will perform extra-vehicular activities, payload handling
using the remote manipulator system, and perform or assist in specific
experimental operations.

Astronaut Candidate Program

Basic Qualification Requirements

Applicants MUST meet the following minimum requirements prior to
submitting an application.

Mission Specialist Astronaut Candidate:

1. Bachelor's degree from an accredited institution in engineering,
biological science, physical science or mathematics. Degree must be
followed by at least three years of related progressively responsible,
professional experience. An advanced degree is desirable and may be
substituted for part or all of the experience requirement (master's
degree = 1 year, doctoral degree = 3 years). Quality of academic
preparation is important.

2. Ability to pass a NASA class II space physical, which is similar to a
civilian or military class II flight physical and includes the following
specific standards:

Distant visual acuity:
20/150 or better uncorrected,
correctable to 20/20, each eye.

Blood pressure:
140/90 measured in sitting position.

3. Height between 58.5 and 76 inches.

Pilot Astronaut Candidate:

1. Bachelor's degree from an accredited institution in engineering,
biological science, physical science or mathematics. Degree must be
followed by at least three years of related progressively responsible,
professional experience. An advanced degree is desirable. Quality of
academic preparation is important.

2. At least 1000 hours pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. Flight
test experience highly desirable.

3. Ability to pass a NASA Class I space physical which is similar to a
military or civilian Class I flight physical and includes the following
specific standards:

Distant visual acuity:
20/50 or better uncorrected
correctable to 20/20, each eye.

Blood pressure:
140/90 measured in sitting position.

4. Height between 64 and 76 inches.

Citizenship Requirements

Applications for the Astronaut Candidate Program must be citizens of
the United States.

Note on Academic Requirements

Applicants for the Astronaut Candidate Program must meet the basic
education requirements for NASA engineering and scientific positions --
specifically: successful completion of standard professional curriculum
in an accredited college or university leading to at least a bachelor's
degree with major study in an appropriate field of engineering,
biological science, physical science, or mathematics.

The following degree fields, while related to engineering and the
sciences, are not considered qualifying:
- Degrees in technology (Engineering Technology, Aviation Technology,
Medical Technology, etc.)
- Degrees in Psychology (except for Clinical Psychology, Physiological
Psychology, or Experimental Psychology which are qualifying).
- Degrees in Nursing.
- Degrees in social sciences (Geography, Anthropology, Archaeology, etc.)
- Degrees in Aviation, Aviation Management or similar fields.

Application Procedures


The application package may be obtained by writing to:

NASA Johnson Space Center
Astronaut Selection Office
Houston, TX 77058

Civilian applications will be accepted on a continuous basis. When NASA
decides to select additional astronaut candidates, consideration will be
given only to those applications on hand on the date of decision is
made. Applications received after that date will be retained and
considered for the next selection. Applicants will be notified annually
of the opportunity to update their applications and to indicate
continued interest in being considered for the program. Those applicants
who do not update their applications annually will be dropped from
consideration, and their applications will not be retained. After the
preliminary screening of applications, additional information may be
requested for some applicants, and person listed on the application as
supervisors and references may be contacted.

Active Duty Military

Active duty military personnel must submit applications to their
respective military service and not directly to NASA. Application
procedures will be disseminated by each service.


Personal interviews and thorough medical evaluations will be required
for both civilian and military applicants under final consideration.
Once final selections have been made, all applicants who were considered
will be notified of the outcome of the process.

Selection rosters established through this process may be used for the
selection of additional candidates during a one year period following
their establishment.

General Program Requirements

Selected applicants will be designated Astronaut Candidates and will be
assigned to the Astronaut Office at the Johnson Space Center, Houston,
Texas. The astronaut candidates will undergo a 1 year training and
evaluation period during which time they will be assigned technical or
scientific responsibilities allowing them to contribute substantially to
ongoing programs. They will also participate in the basic astronaut
training program which is designed to develop the knowledge and skills
required for formal mission training upon selection for a flight. Pilot
astronaut candidates will maintain proficiency in NASA aircraft during
their candidate period.

Applicants should be aware that selection as an astronaut candidate does
not insure selection as an astronaut. Final selection as an astronaut
will depend on satisfactory completion of the 1 year training and
evaluation period. Civilian candidates who successfully complete the
training and evaluation and are selected as astronauts will become
permanent Federal employees and will be expected to remain with NASA for
a period of at least five years. Civilian candidates who are not
selected as astronauts may be placed in other positions within NASA
depending upon Agency requirements and manpower constraints at that
time. Successful military candidates will be detailed to NASA for a
specified tour of duty.

NASA has an affirmative action program goal of having qualified
minorities and women among those qualified as astronaut candidates.
Therefore, qualified minorities and women are encouraged to apply.

Pay and Benefits


Salaries for civilian astronaut candidates are based on the Federal
Governments General Schedule pay scales for grades GS-11 through GS-14,
and are set in accordance with each individuals academic achievements
and experience.

Other benefits include vacation and sick leave, a retirement plan, and
participation in group health and life insurance plans.


Selected military personnel will be detailed to the Johnson Space Center
but will remain in an active duty status for pay, benefits, leave, and
other similar military matters.

NEXT: FAQ #13/13 - Orbital and Planetary Launch Services

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This is a static and possibly incomplete copy of the USEnet SCI.SPACE Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document dated March 1994 (before the material was copyrighted). The official copyrighted and and up-to-date FAQ is maintained by Jon Leech ( and is posted to Network News and available via the World Wide Web . KSC's Hypertext converter last run Thursday June 15 10:23:49 EDT 1995