Ever gazed up longingly at the night sky and wondered if you’d be an astronaut when you grew up? With the future of human settlement being studied in outer space planets like Mars, let’s have a look at how one can qualify as an astronaut.
Crux of the Matter
Types of Astronauts
- Commander/Pilot astronauts – who serve both as space shuttle commanders and pilots. They are responsible for crew safety and mission success.
- Mission Specialist – in charge of coordinating shuttle operations and supervising crew activity.
- Payload Specialists – have specialized on board duties and satisfy unique requirements specific to the mission.
How To Qualify As A Pilot Astronaut?
- At least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in a jet aircraft.
- Healthy – normal blood pressure, 20/20 vision and 158 – 191 cm height.
- No age restrictions- astronauts selected are between 26 – 46 years old.
What’s An Astronaut Class?
NASA has selected 22 “classes” of astronauts since the first group chosen in 1959 for the Mercury program – first human spaceflight program of US.
One such class was called “The Scientists,” and included Harrison J. Schmitt – the only geologist to walk on moon during Apollo 17.
What Does Training Look Like?
- 2 years of basic training starts with classroom learning about the ISS and spaceflight.
- They also become qualified scuba divers and do military water survival training.
- They learn Russian, are exposed to high and low atmospheric pressures and “vomit comet”.
What’s a Vomit Comet?
Also called a reduced-gravity aircraft, it provides brief near-weightless environments for training astronauts, conducting research and making gravity-free movie shots.
Training in Virtual Reality?
The current setup uses a head mounted VR display, bungee rope and a swing attached to the astronaut’s body. Research is going on to simulate a complete microgravity environment as a formal training tool.
- Astronauts fielded by Russia or the Soviet Union are typically known as Cosmonauts. The word is derived from Russian “kosmos”, meaning “universe”.
- Until 2002, astronauts were sponsored and trained exclusively by governments, either by the military or by civilian space agencies. With the suborbital flight of the privately funded SpaceShipOne in 2004, a new category of astronaut was created: the commercial astronaut.
- Charles David “Charlie” Walker is an American engineer who flew on three Space Shuttle missions in 1984 and 1985 as a Payload Specialist for the McDonnell Douglas Corporation. He is the first non-government individual to fly in space.