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    What It Takes To Become An Astronaut — Facts To Help You Fulfill your Child's Dream Of Space Exploration

    Dr Priscilla J S Selvaraj Dr Priscilla J S Selvaraj 6 Mins Read

    Dr Priscilla J S Selvaraj Dr Priscilla J S Selvaraj

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    Written by Dr Priscilla J S Selvaraj and published on 30 June 2021.

    Is your child interested in space science? Is she curious to explore the vast expanse out there? In short, is she wondering how to become an astronaut? Here's what you can do to encourage her.

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    What It Takes To Become An Astronaut — Facts To Help You Fulfill your Child's Dream Of Space Exploration

    It was a giant leap for mankind when Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon, on July 20, 1969. Fifteen years later, Rakesh Sharma's space odyssey made him the first Indian to become orbit-bound. Today, exploring the vast infinity out there means a little more than a hop, skip and jump. So why don't you encourage your child to become an astronaut?

    How to become an astronaut?

    Once you decide to help your child pursue his dream of becoming a space scientist, as the first step, you will need to watch out for these qualities in him - creativity, curiosity, resilience, observational skills, adaptability, and an aptitude for science and research. For, these are the basic characteristics of an astronaut. Apart from this, here's what you need to know to get your child started off on that spectacular journey.

    Qualifications

    Dr Mylswamy Annadurai, former Director ISAC (ISRO Satellite Centre), Bangalore, who was the program director for Chandrayaan - 1 and Mangalyaan missions states, "A graduation in basic sciences and engineering will help your child understand and acquire the skill-sets required to become an astronaut."

    Therefore, the initial step for your child would be to acquire a degree in engineering. However, a degree in aerospace or aeronautical engineering will be of added value.

    Requirements

    Can only pilots apply to be astronauts?

    As far as knowledge of flying is concerned, Dr Annadurai says, "It is not a must but it will certainly help in early adoption to space travel." So, your child may enroll in a flying school and obtain a pilot's license after meeting the age norms required for flying. Your child can also opt to join the Air Force, become a test pilot, and then enroll for training to become an astronaut. Dr Annadurai feels that it would certainly be an advantage for your child to be an Air Force pilot.

    Physical and mental fitness

    According to Dr Annadurai, the most important criteria to become an astronaut are physical fitness, agility, and alertness. Andrew Prince, a student of class 11 at the Indian School, Muscat who attended a special camp at NASA while on a field trip, also stresses the importance of fitness. He says, "The phrase, 'Survival of the fittest' holds good even in space. Unless you have a high level of physical and mental fitness, you cannot survive there. So, you should maintain good health, stay fit, and be focussed if you want to be selected for the extensive and rigorous training program." Therefore, ensure that your child enjoys good health and develops great mental strength in order to pursue a career in space science.

    Training

    Training is rigorous and requires a lot of hard work. Here's what a typical course would include:

    Duration 

    Generally, around two years of training would be given for the first phase of preparation.

    Theory 

    • Technical know-how
    • Knowledge of space station vehicles and systems
    • Study of engineering, earth sciences, meteorology, and space science
    • Basic knowledge of medical procedures
    • Learning of languages

    Practicals

    • Flying training jets
    • Simulated experiences in mock-up facilities
    • Exposure and preparation to experience microgravity (weightlessness)
    • Practice moving large objects in space (on precision air-bearing floors)
    • Space-walking in a neutral buoyancy simulator/laboratory
    • Training to cope with emergencies (water and land survival course)
    • Swimming and scuba diving

    The next phase of training

    Proficiency in pre-launch, launch, orbit, entry, and landing activities.

    The final phase of training 

    The selected candidates will be given advanced mission training on their specific assignments and crew requirements. This will last for around 10 months.

    How to become an astronaut in ISRO?

    As far as the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is concerned, its initial manned flights will carry test pilots from the Indian Air Force. Currently ISRO is not training astronauts from the civilian domain although it might do so some time in the future. So, if your child, is not among the test pilots in the Indian Air Force, he will have to apply to any other space agency such as NASA.

    How to get an internship at ISRO?

    The centers under the Department of Space (DOS) in India, offer three types of internships - summer internship, winter internship, and long-term internship.

    How to become an astronaut at NASA?

    If your teen wants to pursue the NASA path to the Milky Way, here's what NASA has listed out as the basic qualification requirements for a budding astronaut (non-piloting background):

    1. A Bachelor's degree from an accredited institution in engineering, biological science, physical science, or mathematics. Quality of academic preparation is important.
    2. The Degree must be followed by at least 3 years of related, progressively responsible, professional experience or at least 1,000 hours pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. 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. 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.
    3. Ability to pass the NASA long-duration space flight physical tests, which includes the following specific requirements:
    • Distant and near visual acuity: must be correctable to 20/20, each eye
    • Blood pressure not to exceed 140/90 measured in a sitting position
    • Standing height between 62 and 75 inches

    How to get an internship at NASA?

    Internship at NASA is open only to students who are US citizens. The NASA Internship Program at Langley Research Center is a fantastic opportunity for students to conduct research and work on projects along with scientists, researchers, engineers, and mission support teams.

    To know more about the NASA Internship Program, visit the NASA website.

    How much do astronauts get paid?

    According to a report in the Business Insider, the annual salaries of NASA astronauts are based on a government pay scale at grades: GS-12 and GS-13. Based on this, the annual income range for a NASA astronaut can range anywhere between $64,000 and $98,500, depending on their experience.

    Armed with this information, go on and get your child started on his dream mission - to pursue a career in space science!

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