Do you want to be an astronaut? We explain how to achieve it
Being an astronaut is one of the professions most idealized by children since more than one wants to be an astronaut when they grow up. But growing up we realize it’s more like a dream. It is known that in addition to formidable physical and mental abilities, one must be in excellent health and have the advanced scientific knowledge to be considered a candidate.
However, is it really so impossible to be an astronaut? Let’s see what you will need to dedicate yourself to this career.
What is needed to travel to space?
To answer this question, it is best to go directly to the experts, these cannot be other than NASA (the American Space Agency) or ESA (the European Space Agency).
To enter any space program, the agency in question is in charge of establishing the requirements that aspiring astronauts must meet. These requirements, over the years, have been expanded; although it must be taken into account that they have a lot of weight, in the choice of the applicant, and the type of missions that are estimated to be carried out.
Now, let’s see what are the most outstanding requirements that a person who wants to explore outer space must meet.
One of the first things that become apparent to us is that astronauts are very smart people. And this is how this first requirement proves it to us, since to be an astronaut it will be essential to have a university degree, in careers related to engineering, mathematics, physics, or biology and that it is also from a respected institution. So far nothing extremely complicated, especially if we are science lovers.
However, in addition to this university knowledge, the applicant must also have at least 3 years of experience in their field of study. If this time is not met, it will be equally valid to have an opposition or a doctorate.
In this line, whoever hopes to become an astronaut must improve their command of English, since perfect verbal and written communication in this language is required.
But titles and cognitive skills are not the only thing that this select team must gather. They are part of the essential requirements to meet certain characteristics and physical aptitudes that could leave us out of the space race, let’s see.
It might seem that you have to be young to venture into space, however, the age range allowed by the different space agencies is quite wide.
In this sense, the average age of astronauts is 34 or 35 years, although the range is between 27 and 46 years. As we can see, age is not such a serious limitation to access this profession, as long as it meets the other physical demands.
Height and weight
Height and weight could be another important filter when selecting the next aspiring astronauts, but don’t worry, because if we are of average height and healthy weight we still have a chance. Thus, an average height is considered to be between 1.57 and 1.90 mt.
As for weight, it should be within the health standards for height.
The different space agencies perform medical examinations on their applicants, among them, we find an eye exam, which in the case of NASA should result in 20/20 vision without glasses or contact lenses. For the ESA, in its last selection process, allowed this 20/20 to be achieved with glasses or contact lenses.
What does not relax is that the blood pressure of an astronaut candidate cannot be more than 14.
If we meet all of the above, congratulations! We have part of the way gained but there is still a long way to go to achieve it. Thus, candidates must take physical resistance tests, based on true military training.
The tests that make up this exam include: swimming 75 meters without stopping twice, the first time under normal conditions and the second time wearing a spacesuit. Likewise, several atmospheric pressure tests must be passed and, of course, microgravity, which is simulated in a flight in a jet designed for this test.
We come back with technical knowledge, so having a science degree and experience is not everything. After taking the physical tests and going through a good number of interviews, the theoretical tests must be passed.
On this occasion, aspects related to robotics, mechanics, and operation of space vehicles are evaluated, as well as the different systems of the international space station.
Other requirements to take into account to be an astronaut
But there is still more, it does not matter if we meet all the above requirements, because in the case of NASA it is required to have US nationality. For its part, in the case of ESA, it is required to be a citizen of a member or associated state, in both cases, you must at least have dual nationality.
In this profession, two types of astronauts are distinguished, although in the vast majority of cases these characteristics are concurrent. We could either be pilot astronauts or specialists or both. Therefore, it is worth gathering the aforementioned years of professional experience or adding at least 1,000 flight hours in command of a jet aircraft.
At this point, it is worth noting that not only the cognitive and physical aptitudes of the applicants are evaluated, since, at the time of selection, the experts in charge also study the soft skills of the interested parties. That is their ability to lead and follow instructions, their willingness to work in a team, but also being the ability to function individually.
In this order of ideas, they attach great importance to stress management, the capacity to resolve emergency situations, and communication skills in these circumstances.
These last skills are usually the differentiating point between the candidates since it is evident that problems can arise in space and there must be a tendency to solve them by themselves or to be able to receive instructions from Earth.
Additionally, the mental factor is very relevant, this is because space missions aim to be longer and longer. Therefore, you must have the great mental strength to face this type of trip.
Taking all of the above into account, it seems that being an astronaut is not for everyone. Although we do not stop seeing news about really millionaire people paying for a trip to the International Space Station, or billionaire businessmen developing different projects to take civilians into space for absurdly high amounts of money.
According to specialists, the incursion of individuals into the space fence could change everything we know so far. Thus, it is to be expected that long training sessions are not required to go into space, but rather simple training lasting a few days.
With the above and later in time, the massification of space flights could imply the reduction of the requirements. Therefore, soon anyone (with a lot of money) could reach the moon or beyond.