Outer space is the last frontier. Exploring this realm would be the adventure of a lifetime. To do something that few others have ever done is an inspiring dream. This is why every child who has watched clouds dance across the sky, gazed at the stars, watched a science fiction movie, or enjoyed the light of the moon has at least considered what it would be like to be an astronaut.
Astronauts venture into space to research and explore the universe. Astronauts get paid to walk on the moon, orbit the earth, complete space walks, repair satellites, fix the International Space Station, and complete other tasks in zero gravity. How fun does that sound?
Fascination with outer space, other worlds, and the last frontier will lead many aspiring astronauts to begin the quest to become an astronaut at a very young age. Unfortunately, for most people it’s only a dream job. Just over 500 people (and a few chimpanzees) have been to outer space since space exploration began in 1961.
Becoming an astronaut is one of the more competitive jobs in the world. Usually thousands of people apply for this coveted job, and less than 10 are actually chosen. Currently, there are only 43 active astronauts and 8 astronauts-in-training. All astronauts are hired by a space agency such as NASA. The US, Europe, Canada, Japan, Russia, and China all have space programs, but to work for NASA as an astronaut, you must be a US citizen.
All astronauts must pass in-depth interviews, psychological testing, and written exams. The majority of astronauts come from a military background and have university degrees in engineering, science, or math. They are all in peak physical condition. Vision, blood pressure, and height all play a factor in the hiring process. For those who don’t make the cut, there are plenty of other cool jobs involved in the space industry.
NASA has three types of astronauts. Pilots and Commanders have extensive flight experience that allows them to pilot the spaceship. Mission Specialists operate the mechanical aspects of the ship, complete space walks, focus on repairs, and ensure the ship operates appropriately. Payload Specialists are mission focused. They have specific training that enables the crew to complete the mission. Which one would you be?
After landing a job, astronauts spend years training at high-end facilities. They spend time in classrooms, simulators, and gyms. They focus on specific tasks and jobs. Eventually they may get to go to outer space for 3 to 6 month long missions.
Once astronauts blast off from Earth, they enter a highly dangerous environment. Operating in cramped conditions, all of their training must be second nature to safely go to space, complete a mission, and return. It’s an intense career that pays well. astronauts make between $64,724 and $141,715 per year.
In 2011, NASA retired the iconic space shuttle fleet after 30 years of service. The future of space travel now lies in the hands of private companies like Boeing, Space X, Sierra Nevada, and Blue Origin. The competition has begun to create commercial spaceships that will hopefully transport astronauts into space soon.
No one knows what the future of space travel will hold. That’s what makes it so exciting. Where will astronauts go next? Deep space? Mars? Beyond? The job of astronauts will stay the same – exploring outer space. The opportunities for longer, more distant missions is a real possibility.
Outer space is the last frontier. If you beat the competition and become an astronaut, you might be the person to explore it. Good luck!
Quick Facts About Astronaut Careers
Job Title: Astronaut
Office: On-Earth training and outer space missions
Description: Venture into space to research and explore the universe
Certifications/Education: Degree in engineering, science, or math, Must pass multiple tests
Necessary Skills: Physically fit, Military background, Intelligent
Potential Employers: Space Agency
Pay: $64,724 and $141,715 per year