From Childhood Dreams to Realities: How to Become an Astronaut for NASA

May 5 is National Astronaut Day, and in honor of the brave souls who find travel into the unknown intriguing, there are a lot of steps to becoming part of this extremely specialized team.

A lot of children dream of becoming an astronaut. However, some of these dreams continued on into adulthood. But what exactly does it take to be an astronaut for NASA?

Before submitting an application, basic requirements must be met: United States Citizenship, a master’s degree in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) field and at least two years of related field experience, to name a few.

Once the minimum requirements have been met, the application can be submitted. There are a few different applications: Civilian Applicants, Active Duty Applicants and Applicants with Flight Experience. The last deadline for applications was March 31. However, there will be another window, most likely, within the next two years.

Dog looking at Earth from Moon Danie Morgan / Pexels

The applicant will then be asked to complete online assessments. These assessments used to be further along in the application process; however, due to more applications, NASA found it helpful to include the assessments earlier to help narrow down the number of people and make it more time-efficient.

If the applicant checks off each bullet point and passes all assessments, then there is a possibility of selection. Once selected, the applicant will officially be part of the Astronaut Candidate Training Program in Houston (Yes… the famous Houston from “Houston, we have a problem”) at the Astronaut Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. This is where the participants of the training program will complete training and multiple evaluations for about two years. This training includes military water survival, scuba qualifications, spacewalk training and more.

After all of this, if the applicant makes it through “International Space Station systems training, spacewalk skills training, robotics skills training, Russian language training, and aircraft flight readiness training” successfully and to the liking of NASA, then graduation from the Astronaut Candidate Training Program will commence.

study outside Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

At this point, the new astronauts will be considered permanent federal employees if they entered the process through the Civilian Application. If the new astronauts entered through the Active Duty Application, then they “will be detailed to NASA for a specified tour of duty.”

If you are wondering why somebody would go through all of this trouble (as if dreaming about it since childhood weren’t enough), remember that astronauts start out at a six-figure salary per year.  Plus, they get government benefits including health care, retirement plans, life insurance and more.

If you are one of the brave souls who wants to travel into the expanding abyss we call space, then I offer my deepest well wishes, and I hope you give me a shout-out when you make it to the Moon—or even Mars.