We all dreamed of exploring outer space as children. There’s something about the allure of the unknown, and the seemingly endless fun to be had in zero gravity, that makes the prospect of being a space explorer very intriguing. Though watching movies like Apollo 13 or Gravity may have you thankful that most of us are permanently planted here on Earth, the fantasy of blasting off and exploring the galaxy is something that many of us carry into adulthood.
Well, don’t throw that dream out the window just yet, because America’s gearing up to go back out there, and in a big way. With exploring Mars now a realistic goal, and the prospect of trillions to be made from asteroid mining, America needs a new generation of astronauts. And you can be one of them, if you meet the necessary requirements.
No, this isn’t quite the same as applying for a middle manager position — NASA has some pretty serious requirements. And there’s only room for a very select few — to date, NASA has only brought in 300 or so astronauts, 47 of them currently in action. So if you’re seriously thinking about applying, get ready for a cutthroat culture that would put Amazon to shame.
“This next group of American space explorers will inspire the Mars generation to reach for new heights, and help us realize the goal of putting boot prints on the Red Planet,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, from an official NASA press release. “Those selected for this service will fly on U.S. made spacecraft from American soil, advance critical science and research aboard the International Space Station, and help push the boundaries of technology in the proving ground of deep space.”
Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? It pays pretty well, too.
If you want to apply, you can do so at the the government’s official job applicant portal. But before you do anything, you’ll want to make sure you meet all of the requirements. And they’re fairly stringent. To give you a head start, we’ve listed five of the most important things NASA is looking for in a prospective astronaut. If you can’t meet these right off the bat, you’re probably better off here on Earth.
First and foremost, NASA needs people who are educated. According to the official requirements, NASA wants “a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in engineering, biological science, physical science, or mathematics.” Oh, and “quality of academic preparation is important.” So keep that in mind.
They also prefer a Master’s degree, so if you’re stuck with a only a Bachelor’s it may put you behind the curve. There are a bunch of degrees that are also specifically mentioned for being disqualifying, including psychology, nursing, technology, and aviation. If you were hoping to make it past the first hurdle with an education in any of those fields, you’re out of luck.
They don’t need experience in outer space, of course, but some professional experience in related fields is very important in the astronaut selection process. “Degree must be followed by at least 3 years of related, progressively responsible, professional experience or at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft,” NASA’s requirement page reads.
If you have a Master’s or other advanced degree, that may help you get ahead. “An advanced degree is desirable and may be substituted for experience as follows: master’s degree = 1 year of experience, doctoral degree = 3 years of experience.”
And good news for you teachers out there: “Teaching experience, including experience at the K – 12 levels, is considered to be qualifying experience for the Astronaut Candidate position; therefore, educators are encouraged to apply.”
If you’re going to go to space, you need to be able to see. And NASA wants eagle vision. “Distant and near visual acuity must be correctable to 20/20 in each eye,” the requirements read. That’s pretty cut and dry — either you’ll be naturally gifted with great vision, or will need some top-notch glasses or contacts.
4. Physical Specs
This isn’t the Navy Seals, so you won’t need to be able to run five miles in the dark, lugging around 100 pounds of equipment or anything like that. But you will need to be in shape, and be of certain dimensions. Luckily, there’s a sizable window in terms of height that NASA is looking for.
NASA wants your “blood pressure not to exceed 140/90 measured in a sitting position, and the candidate must have a standing height between 62 and 75 inches.” That’s between 5’2″, and 6’3″, for the layperson. The average American male is 5’10″, so most people should be able to qualify.
You’ll also need to become a skilled swimmer, and get SCUBA certified. Candidates will need to go through military water survival training, and “must swim 3 lengths of a 25- meter pool without stopping, and then swim 3 lengths of the pool in a flight suit and tennis shoes with no time limit. They must also tread water continuously for 10 minutes wearing a flight suit.”
5. Pass a Psych Test
Space is freaky, and the last thing NASA needs is its astronauts losing their nerve hundreds, thousands, or millions of miles away from home. For that reason, a number of psychological screenings are administered during the screening process, along with the physical examinations. There aren’t any specific tests mentioned in NASA’s documents, but you can only imagine that the psychological exams are likely more intense than the physical ones.
If you fit within all of these requirements, along with all of the others, you have a shot at getting into the two-year evaluation program in Houston. And from there? The stars, presumably.
Feel like you have the right stuff? Send in an application. You may end up being the first person to ever walk on another planet.