NASA Is Looking For Its Next Astronauts – Could It Be You?

Estimated read time 3 min read

NASA has opened the call for its next class of astronauts. So if you dream of traveling in space and being an advocate for the space agency, this is your chance. You will have competition; the last call saw 12,000 applicants, but do not be put off. NASA wants the widest possible range of people, and actively encourages as many people as possible to apply.

Still, there are some important requirements. First of all, you need to be a US citizen. Then, you need to have at least a master’s degree or equivalent in a STEM field – but this requirement can be met in various ways, such as being a pilot, or a medical doctor, or doing two years of work towards a PhD in a STEM field. Then you need to have three years of related professional experience (although in certain fields you don’t have to have finished that yet). This has been increased from two in the previous selection round.

And finally, you need to pass the NASA long-duration flight astronaut physical. NASA’s Astronaut Selection team is looking for people who can demonstrate leadership, teamwork, and communication skills. It’s about the whole person, not just about being the best in a specific narrow field.

“We are looking for folks that definitely have strong technical skills. That’s a given if you’re going to come and be in this role for NASA. But we’re also looking for folks who have a bit of a multidisciplinary background. So folks that have done a lot of things not just in their work experiences, but their life experiences,” NASA Astronaut Selection Manager April Jordan told IFLScience when asked about how one becomes an astronaut.

Rounds of selection will drastically reduce the number of applicants, but a small number will be invited to NASA for further assessments. And it is not just about the individual skills – once the selection is narrowed down, the focus shifts to making a class of astronauts who are a great team. A team that can endure the challenges. Because being an astronaut candidate, or AsCan, is not easy.

“[The AsCans] will learn how to live and work on the space station. In addition to that, they’ll learn the fundamentals of robotics, how to manipulate an arm that’s huge and moves really slowly. It’s not like a video game. So we teach them how to combine those visual and hand coordination elements, and the different cameras that you might have,” Cassie Rodriquez, Chief Training Officer for human spaceflight operations and Spacecraft Communicator at Mission Control based at NASA Johnson Space Center, told IFLScience.

“Then they’ll also learn EVA [extravehicular activity]. This is where they’ll go into the neutral buoyancy lab, the NBL, which is the best environment that we currently have on Earth to simulate what it’s like to be in a spacesuit floating in space. The EVA training is probably one of the hardest that they get. And then they’ll also learn how to fly jets.”

If you think this is the job for you, astronaut applications opened this week and you have until April 2 to submit yours! Good luck; we hope to see you up in space soon.