Today’s challenge is to write a how-to post on something I know nothing about. I wanted to be an astronaut when I was a kid, especially after watching the movie Space Camp. When they referenced “red-blooded American kids” I was crushed. I wasn’t American, I was poor and I lived in a little town in outback Queensland, Australia. The likelihood of me ever getting to be an astronaut was ZERO.
I’ve always been fascinated with astronomy, astrophysics (I wrote a brilliant project on comets once in Year 4. Colour photocopies were cutting edge and my cardboard poster had TWO), and space in general. So today I will be writing a list of ways you can become an astronaut. There’s still time, people! I’m not dead yet!
- If you are between the ages of 9 and 11, you might like to go to Space Camp. I’ll only be a little bit jealous. Here you will learn the history of space exploration, see actual rockets, and perform experiments. You will also learn about rocket construction and go in astronaut simulators. There are more detailed camps as you get older, and there is even a program for adults.
- You should probably move to America. You could go to China or Russia, but America has Pop Tarts. Become a citizen.
- Ok so we’re in America, and our one-stop space shop is NASA*. They require you to be between the ages of 26 and 46, and a height that is between 5’2″ and 6’3″.
- You need to be in relatively good health, so 20/20 vision and a resting blood pressure of no higher than 140/90.
- Here’s where I fall down – you need to be able to swim. A lot of training is done underwater to help you get used to weightlessness (or as much as you can, anyway). It’s helpful if you don’t drown.
- Be smart as hell. Almost-perfect grades in high school (particularly in maths and science). I’m extremely smart, but there’s that whole bit about me being a high school dropout that’s probably not going to work in my favour.
- Get a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, science, physics, or engineering. Not journalism.
- Get some experience. Maybe try navigation, piloting, working with computers, chemistry/biology, or commanding a ship. Do this for three years.
- Being in the military helps. Try that maybe.
- Apply for the job! USAJOBS is your first port of call. Your résumé must be no longer than six typed pages, or approximately 22,000 characters, including spaces. In addition to a résumé, you’ll need to submit transcripts accompanied by a coversheet, a list of references and other skills, and an overview of your aeronautical experience.
- Be chosen to be part of a very small contingent of successful applicants. You will endure a week of personal interviews, medical screening and orientation. NASA selects about 100 men and women for each candidate class.
- Undergo training. NASA training takes place in Texas and runs for two years. You will be expected to work underwater and in simulators, as well as studying space relations, science and technology. Start looking forward to lessons on human mechanics, engineering, and astronomy as well. And some Russian. They were there first.
- Then you’ve gotta work for NASA for five years.
- While you’re doing that you will continue generic classroom training on the various aspects of ISS operations that you started as an astronaut candidate. You will also travel to Russia to train in Soyuz simulators for prelaunch, launch, orbit, entry and landing.
- Once you’re chosen for a mission, you will train specifically for that endeavour. Long-duration missions aboard the ISS generally last from three to six months and require two to three years of preparation. You will be expected to have detailed knowledge of the operational characteristics, mission requirements and objectives, and supporting systems and equipment for each experiment on your assigned missions.
- You should also look good in a space suit for your official portrait. Maybe try with a fish bowl on your head first.
*thanks to the US government shutdown, the NASA website is not available until they sort their shit out.