Many people dream of becoming an astronaut, but only a few actually reach the target. The idea of entering space and exploring different planets lures many young people.
The whole experience of getting inside the spaceship, taking off, and escaping the earth’s atmosphere are factors that will ignite the desire of most young minds. However, you must fulfill many requirements to become one of NASA’s astronauts.
NASA has set specific requirements for aspiring astronauts throughout the country. Firstly, you must have intellectual brilliance, top physical form, and unmatched willpower to push yourself to the limit, but the most important are the four basic requirements set by NASA.
Before moving on to the four requirements, let us discuss how NASA used to select its astronauts and whether recent changes have occurred.
Astronaut Selection Process
NASA’s astronaut selection process has seen some changes in criteria since the start of the program. The organization initially started employing military personnel who were good at flying aircraft. These soldiers also needed to have some experience in the field of engineering to be chosen as NASA’s astronauts.
The process of selecting astronauts changed in 1964 when NASA started recruiting scientists for their space programs. The organization realized that the astronauts needed scientific knowledge to explore outer space. This was impossible by sending only military personnel with no science background.
So, NASA started recruiting people who had academic qualifications in engineering, medicine, or natural science for their space programs. If you had any qualifications among those three, you were eligible to apply for NASA’s scientist-astronaut positions.
The change in the process of recruiting scientists for NASA’s astronaut programs was also expedited by the rise in private spaceflight companies. This led to an increase in the requirements for astronauts.
Requirements To Apply For NASA’s Astronaut Program
- US Citizenship Is Mandatory
You must be a citizen of the US if you want to be a part of NASA. It is a vital requirement set up by NASA because the organization’s employees are directly connected to the US Federal government.
The government cannot have someone working for them who is not an official citizen of the country. If you are an employee in the NASA program, you will receive your paychecks from the federal government. When you receive any increment from the government, the American taxpayer looks after your expenses.
The requirement of US citizenship also concerns the country’s security. If you are not a citizen of the US working for NASA, you might give away vital information about the country’s space research programs to other countries. So, it is important to employ aspirants who are US citizens at NASA.
There is also a provision where you can apply for NASA with valid documents proving your dual citizenship.
- Educational Qualifications
You must have a master’s degree in the STEM field if you want to apply for NASA’s astronaut program. For those unaware of the STEM fields, it stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
These are only the requirements you must have to be eligible to apply. It does not mean you will be selected for the astronaut program.
You can also have two years of work related to a STEM doctoral program even if you don’t have a master’s degree in the STEM field. This allows you to apply for the highly-regarded space program.
There are also other avenues that can make you eligible for NASA’s space program, like being a doctor of medicine or completing a pilot program from an aviation school that is nationally recognized.
- Work Experience
Becoming an astronaut at NASA is not an easy task, as it takes commitment and hard work. There are two ways you can become a NASA astronaut if you don’t have the basic educational qualifications.
The first one is to become a pilot in the US military, which means you must have at least 60000 minutes of flying experience. This does not mean using only basic flying rules, but you must be excellent at it and safe at the same time.
You can also become a flight test pilot by enlisting in a pilot school recognized nationally. You will not be able to become a NASA astronaut unless you are excellent at flying an aircraft or assisting the pilot in maintaining safety protocols.
The other way is to get a doctorate in any of the fields mentioned by NASA and have at least two years of research under your belt. If you have research experience, you will be able to provide on-site assistance. That makes you eligible to apply to become an astronaut for NASA.
- Pass NASA’s Physical Test
You must be at the top of your physical fitness to be a NASA astronaut. You will experience different atmospheric pressure in outer space, for which your body must endure the changes.
NASA has a long-duration physical test for intending astronauts, requiring you to pass certain criteria. The vision in both sides of your eyes should be correctable by 20/20. You can get your eyes surgically corrected or use glasses to achieve the visual requirements set by NASA.
Since an astronaut needs to wear a spacesuit and fly in a spaceship, the body’s proportions should be in accordance with NASA’s requirements. Aspirants must go through a series of meticulous body measurements to meet NASA’s physical requirements. You will also undergo other physical tests, such as stamina, endurance, lung capacity, etc.