How to Be an Astronaut

Last week I went to NASA’s announcement about the new application to become an astronaut.  It’s easy, they tell us, just follow this link:

Funny enough, USA Jobs is the same link you use to apply for a Postal Operations/Finance Clerk position (just an interesting comparison).  Job descriptions are slightly different.

I make light of the application and the link to get to the application, but there is a shift not only in the application location, but in what it will mean to be an astronaut in the future.  We’ve all thought about spaceflight and when we do, we think of NASA.  And it feels as if that’s how it should be.  However, times change and systems change.  This new class of astronauts (the first of which was announced at the ceremony I attended–here are a few of them here, along with two other Einstein Fellows and me) will face new challenges.

These astronauts will be the first to fly in commercial spacecraft to the International Space Station (check out to see what Space X is doing for NASA):

These astronauts will also be the first to train for long-term space travel–perhaps to Mars.  Because of this, training has shifted from a more specialist-centered approach to astronauts who are superheroes…they can do everything.  Just listening to them “mention” their credentials made your head spin.  One has been an ER doctor, and an emergency aviation doctor (don’t ask what that is…I don’t know), and is a pilot, and holds a degree in engineering.  Two others on the stage were also physicians in addition to what else they do.  They have to be prepared to take care of one another on long-endurance space travel, must be able to fix spacecraft, the International Space Station, etc. while in an Extravehicular Spacesuit, must be able to conduct science experiments of all kinds while at the space station, etc. etc. etc.  So the field is changing.  And as space travel continues to change, requirements will change as well.  The first of these astronauts will have to do everything–as the future establishes ourselves on other planets and moons, the needs for the people who will be there will evolve as well. (Perhaps that job opening for a postal operations person will be a job that is open on a Mars habitat).

While at the ceremony, NASA unveiled a video promoting the astronaut application process.  It’s a pretty fun video–here’s the link (so that you, too, can be inspired to become one of the new astronauts):




~ by alanotte on November 22, 2011.

One Response to “How to Be an Astronaut”

  1. Thanks April & good timing. Brookie told me just 2 days ago that she is going to be an astronaut when she grows up. I’ll show her the video when she gets home from kindergarten & we’ll start working on the application ASAP :). Never too early to start dreaming, right??

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