Astronaut Career Information

While astronauts have a dangerous job, they also can look forward to challenging exciting work that is always changing and sometimes even "out of this world." Your tasks will vary greatly and can be as routine as filling out paperwork and as dangerous as a space walk. In general, you will be expected to collect data, do research, and perform complex space maneuvers in anti-gravity conditions. But in order to learn how to do these things, you will have to undergo many hours of training, so you can look forward to always learning something new.

Education/Experience

In order to be an astronaut, you will need to have extensive knowledge in the natural sciences like biology, chemistry and physics. You will also find that having a solid background in math, communications, and social studies is very useful. Consider majoring in engineering, aviation, or technology in college, but since astronauts often have very diverse educational backgrounds, you could also get your degree in subjects like nursing, psychology, and exercise physiology. You might also want to think about getting your masters or PhD to give you an edge in this very competitive field.

If you want to be a pilot, you will need at least 1,000 hours flying a jet as the commander. People without a flying background will need at least 3 years of professional experience along with their degree. NASA encourages K through 12 teachers as well as women and minorities to apply. Just be aware that applicants will have to pass a physical requiring candidates to be between 62 and 75 inches tall, have 20/20 corrected vision, and blood pressure readings (while seated) of less than 140/90. Once you have passed all these tests, you will be subject to a background check.

Application

If you are interested in becoming an astronaut, you will need to fill out an interest application on the NASA website. If you are a civilian, you'll need to submit your application through the Office of Personnel Management. If you are on active military duty, not only will you have to submit an application on the web site but you will also have to contact your particular branch of service for information about any additional application procedures.

Currently NASA is looking for people who can make contributions to their Constellation Program and other projects like the International Space Station. Future astronauts can look forward to building outposts on the moon where they will stay for up to six months, eventually paving the way for excursions to Mars.

Work Schedule/Basic tasks

As an astronaut, your work schedule will vary greatly. Sometimes you may work a normal Monday through Friday workweek from 9 am to 5 pm. But when you are preparing for a mission, you may have to work evenings and weekends. And while you are actually on a mission, you are on the clock 24 hours a day every day until you return home.