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.
The need to explore is an inherent trait found in most living creatures, including human beings. However, not everyone can understand the importance and benefits of space exploration. After all, more than half of the earth’s population is ignorant of space knowledge. But it is the endeavor of some people that are making the world go around with innovation.
Space exploration is something that is carried out by only a few people but benefits the whole earth. Take telephones, GPS, and solar cells, for instance. Without help from space, we would still be living like primates without the modern technologies and gadgets that we enjoy today.
Why Is Space Exploration Necessary?
Space exploration paves the way for several benefits, which are both direct and indirect, such as cultural benefits, enhanced space knowledge, development of modern technologies, and more.
While we may not be aware of all the opportunities that space exploration offers, NASA has maintained a statistical analysis of how it has improved the quality of living. According to NASA, space exploration has saved 444000 lives, created 14000 jobs, generated $5 billion in revenue, and more.
With space exploration, NASA has documented that there has been tremendous improvement in the fields of information technology, health and medicine, energy and environment, and public safety, among others.
Space Exploration – Benefits
There are many benefits that space exploration offers. Here are some of the major benefits you can expect.
We can’t deny that inventions are very useful for comfortable living. Not all of us may be aware, but space exploration has made our lives easier with past innovations like water purifiers, implantable heart monitors, solar cells, and more.
Space exploration has made way for various benefits in storing energy as well as generating power. It has also given advantages to various other fields like engineering, computing, allied health careers and medicine, advanced robotics, transportation, and more.
Inspiration is key if you want to live comfortably in a world where the future will be in the hands of today’s kids. Educating children about space during their early years will instill in them an inspiration to pursue the field.
Learning about the stars and the universe is very interesting, especially if you learn from brilliant experts. However, on rational thoughts, not every interested kid will become an astronomer. But the zeal to know more about space will be present, and this indirectly contributes to better space knowledge.
But whether you’re a kid or an adult, the way of the stars is a topic of mystery and wonder. For most of us, we can only marvel at the amazing outer world that is full of enigma and excitement.
In a way, space exploration is what links a nation to another nation. In the past, space exploration used to be a competition among various nations on earth. However, the thing that is outside is too big to comprehend or handle single-handedly. This has compelled global unity, where nations work together as a collective whole to bring positive changes to the world.
Now there are more partnerships and operations from countries around the world, thanks to the International Space Station (ISS), which has been operating for nearly three decades. The number of nations signed to ISS rose from a meager 15 nations to 68 nations.
Prevents Asteroid Catastrophe
It is possible for the earth to suffer from major natural disasters from outer space without proper safety measures to avert these catastrophes. NASA states that it is highly probable for huge asteroids the size of football fields to hit the earth once every 10000 years. This can cause a tragic scene where the asteroid lands.
But what we should really be fearing are asteroids that measure 100 meters or bigger in diameter. You can only imagine the impact that it will have. Large areas on earth will be wiped out, and life will eventually get threatened. This is why it is necessary to have knowledge about space so that preventive measures can be exercised.
Thanks to the advancement in science and technology, NASA has recently launched the Double Asteroid Redirection Test in 2022. This program is to attempt to slightly change the course of an asteroid falling on earth by launching an automatic spacecraft to hit and crash with it.
National Safety and Security
According to the 1967 space treaty, no nation will claim territories in space. But considering that there are many super nations emerging, such as China and Russia, among others, the lust for power and control can divert anyone from what was discussed and signed.
This is why the US needs to be prepared if such hostility occurs among superpower nations. For this sole purpose, Congress passed a law in 2019 for the creation of the US Space Force, a part of the US armed forces whose job is to protect and defend the nation from space attacks.
Raw Material Extraction
Another benefit of space exploration is the extraction of raw materials. Often, the farther they are, the more rare and valuable they will be. The outer space bodies have gold, platinum, and other precious stones and minerals that we take to invent and create.
The moon and asteroids are great places to find rare raw materials. For instance, the moon is a rich source of helium-3 that can be used as nuclear power plant fuel. The moon also offers other rare earth elements like tantalum and europium.
It would be hard to imagine the scenario on earth without assistance from space. Whether it is about understanding our own world better or improving the world, space exploration is crucial. Without the knowledge of how the universe operates, we would be missing out on safety and many other innovations.
Knowing what is happening outside our world not only keeps us informed but can also help us dodge global natural emergencies. Space exploration has benefited humans in so many ways, from offering precious elements and materials to preventing possible mishaps when asteroids threaten to collide with earth.
Everybody must have heard of NASA or at least come across it in books, movies, the internet, etc. NASA stands for National Aeronautics and Space Administration, an independent agency of the US federal government.
NASA deals with all the space programs sanctioned by the US government and was formed on July 29, 1958. It has programs where astronauts are sent on missions to space and other planets to explore the secrets of the universe for the benefit of humankind.
Though many people know of NASA as a space agency, it has many other interesting facts that will blow your mind. Let’s look at some of the most interesting facts about NASA that you may not be aware of.
1. First Meal On The Moon
When Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin landed on the moon, it was apparent that everything they did would go down in history as a first. The first person to set foot on the surface of the moon was Neil Armstrong, followed by Buzz Aldrin.
The two astronauts had their food stored in the lunar module, which they were supposed to eat after landing on the moon. The food items for their first meal consisted of salted and dried bacon, coffee, pineapple and grapefruit drink, sugar cookies, and peaches.
Bacon cubes were the most common among these food items in American space program history. It has a long history, going back as far as the early Gemini missions. Bacon was a staple in American culture, so it was not a surprise to see bacon cubes on the menu when Neil Armstrong and Edwin Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon.
However, bacon cubes became a thing of the past, as NASA replaced it with freeze-dried sausage patties as part of an astronaut’s meal options. There are more food options for NASA’s astronauts, but bacon is missing from the menu.
2. The 1999 Orbiter Disaster
The Mars Climate Orbiter was on a mission to travel to Mars but was met with an unfortunate turn of events due to something silly. The spacecraft burned and broke into pieces just before landing on Mars due to the failure of the usage of the correct unit of measurement.
The spacecraft was on a mission to research the climate and atmosphere on Mars, and also to act as a point of passing communication for the Mars Polar Lander. The Mars Climate Orbiter ended up in jeopardy because the navigation team and the spacecraft’s designers were on different wavelengths regarding the unit of measurement.
The navigation team used millimeters and meters to calculate each measurement, whereas Lockheed Martin Astronautics used the British measurement system of inches, feet, and pounds. The problem was in the software controlling the orbiter’s thrusters, whose force was measured using pounds.
However, the propulsion engineers at Lockheed Martin should have used the standard metric units for space missions. The difference in the measurement units gave wrong navigations and took the spacecraft dangerously close to Mars’ atmosphere, where it, unfortunately, broke down.
3. NASA Vehicle Assembly Building
The NASA Vehicle Assembly Building is one of the most significant artificial structures in the world and is the only facility where a space rocket was assembled. This spacecraft was used to carry humans to the moon.
The NASA Vehicle Assembly Building hosts different spacecraft and rockets simultaneously. It is NASA’s central hub and is used as the premier multi-user spaceport.
The NASA VAB is a historic structure that accommodates different rockets going into the earth’s orbit or space. The VAB has the infrastructure to prepare spacecraft and rockets designed and built by aerospace engineers and mechanics from some of the top trade schools in the world.
This facility was constructed in the 60s to assemble the Apollo moon rocket, the largest ever artificial rocket. It covers one of the largest land areas worldwide when it comes to artificial buildings, measuring up to almost 8 acres.
The high bay doors in the Vehicle Assembly Building take almost an hour to completely open or close. The building is so huge you can see clouds on the ceiling during humid days.
The VAB has a massive air-conditioning system to control the humidity in the building.
4. Office Of Planetary Protection
NASA has a dedicated planetary protection office to ensure that humans do not contaminate other planets and vice-versa. They also ensure that alien organisms do not contaminate the earth and cause harm to humans.
They have different policies that sanction the exploration of alien life on other planets in the solar system. The Office of Planetary Protection ensures the safety of other planets when astronauts go on exploration missions. They guarantee that other planets are not contaminated by terrestrial organisms and organic material carried by spacecraft.
NASA’s Office of Planetary Protection also uses the same policies to protect against the contamination of life on earth by alien organisms or bioactive molecules when astronauts return with samples from other planets. They do this to prevent potentially harmful impacts on humans and the earth’s biosphere.
They develop plans to protect the planetary bodies of interest. Still, their ultimate goal is to support the scientific study of chemical evolution and the origins of life in the solar system.
5. NASA Sued For Trespassing
If you thought you had seen or heard it all, you are in for a surprise! In 1997, three Yemeni men sued NASA for taking pictures of Mars and sending them to earth. They even presented documents to prove their claim over Mars.
They argued that the US spacecraft took pictures and information of Mars without their consent. The Yemeni men demanded that all exploration missions to Mars be halted until they heard a court verdict.
However, NASA’s representative referred to the 1967 international treaty, which read that everything in the solar system belonged to everyone except Earth. So, the claims made by the Yemenis were ridiculed and termed false.
NASA is one of the leading space agencies worldwide, but only a few know a whole lot about them. From the first meal ever on the moon to the claims of Mars by Yemeni men, this article has covered some of the most interesting facts about NASA.
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