So You Want To Be An Astronaut...
Alan Shepherd, John Glenn, Jr., and Sally Ride are names that conjure up images
of bravery and adventure. As astronauts, they are part of a select group who
probably have some of the most recognizable names in our country.
When the space program began in 1959, NASA asked the U.S. Military services to
list their members who met specific qualifications. After a series of intense
physical and psychological screenings, NASA selected seven men from an original
field of 500 candidates. Since then, much has changed. Today, aspiring
astronauts compete with an average of 3,500 other applicants for about 20 slots
as mission specialists or pilot astronauts that open up every two years.
Competition is keen. However, any adult man or woman in good physical
condition who meets the basic qualifications, including U.S. citizenship, could
be selected to enter astronaut training.
The minimum requirements include a bachelor's degree in engineering, science,
or mathematics from an accredited institution. However, an advanced degree is
desirable. Additionally, all applicants must have substantial directly related
experience and pilot astronauts must have at least 1,000 hours of experience in
jet aircraft. Information on specific experience requirements, as well as
additional medical and physical requirements, can be obtained from the Johnson
Space Center at the address listed below.
Following a thorough review of all applications, the Astronaut Selection Board
(ASB) interviews a small number of highly-qualified applicants and evaluates
them based on the following criteria:
Additionally, applicants must meet NASA spaceflight medical standards.
Although the ASB recommends candidates for selection, the Director of the
Johnson Space Center and the NASA Administrator make the final decisions. Once
selected, candidates begin a rigorous training program.
- Experience and potential;
- ability to function as a member of a team;
- communicative abilities;
- adaptability; and,
- other related factors.
Selected applicants are first designated as "astronaut candidates" and are
assigned to the Astronaut Office at the Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas.
There they undergo a one to two year training and evaluation period, after
which time they are assigned technical or scientific responsibilities allowing
them to contribute substantially to ongoing programs. They participate in the
basic astronaut training program which is designed to develop the knowledge and
skills required for formal mission training upon selection for a flight.
(Pilot astronaut candidates maintain proficiency in NASA aircraft during their
Selection as an astronaut candidate does not insure selection as an astronaut.
Final selection as an astronaut depends upon satisfactory completion of the
training and evaluation period. Civilian candidates who successfully complete
the training and evaluation and are selected as astronauts will become
permanent Federal employees and are expected to remain with NASA for a period
of at least five years.
Civilian candidates who are not selected as astronauts may be placed in other
positions with NASA depending upon work requirements. Successful military
candidates will be detailed to NASA for a specified tour of duty.
Although most astronauts feel they could not imagine a better career, it is
clearly not for everyone. The work is often long and arduous; and travel,
particularly before and after a launch, can be intensive.
HOW TO APPLY
Civilian candidates may obtain an application package through NASA's
Astronaut web site at
or they may write or call the Astronaut Office at:
NASA, Johnson Space Center
Active Duty Military personnel must submit applications to their
respective military service and not directly to NASA. Application
procedures will be disseminated by each service.
Attn: AHX/Astronaut Selection Office
Houston, TX 77058
Telephone: (281) 483-5907
PAY AND BENEFITS
Salaries for selected civilian astronaut candidates are based on the
Federal Government's General Schedule pay scales for grades GS-11 through
GS-14 (approximately $43,000 to $93,000), and are set in accordance with
each individual's academic achievements and experience. Other benefits
include vacation and sick leave, a retirement plan, and participation in
health and life insurance plans.
Selected military personnel will be detailed to the Johnson Space Center,
but will remain in an active duty status for pay, benefits, leave, and
other similar military matters.
AS OF: 12-20-1999
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