Here’s What It Actually Takes to Be a NASA Astronaut
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Here’s What It Actually Takes to Be a NASA Astronaut

When NASA started recruiting for its first
astronaut class in 1959, it had no idea what it was looking for because it didn’t know
what was going to happen to the human body in space. Basically the agency needed people used to
flying dangerous missions in untested vehicles while giving real-time feedback to engineers…
which pretty much narrowed the pool to test pilots. President Eisenhower stipulated that due to
the potential top-secret nature of this endeavour, they should be in the military. And this led to the basic qualifications for
the first batch of astronauts. Military pilots who’d graduated from a test
pilot school holding a bachelor’s of engineering with at least 1,500 hours flying jets under
their belts. And we ended up with these guys: three Navy
pilots, three air force pilots, and one marine pilot all with the flight time and bachelor’s
degrees. This was basically the way things went until
1964 when NASA shifted to reward academic merits, looking at PhDs instead of flight
time. The fourth group was the first of scientist-astronauts. Two were qualified civilians and the others
had military backgrounds. NASA’s needs were changing. With long-duration lunar missions and even
longer space station flights in the works, the agency was starting to need real scientists
in space. During the Apollo-era, untested and new was
the name game and the crews were just three men so each astronaut had to do everything
— be a test pilot, an engineer, a scientist… But with the pending beginning of the shuttle
program, crews were larger, missions were longer, and the technology was designed to
be reused so it would become familiar over time. This meant NASA could look at astronauts not
as jacks of all trades but specialists. Some would fly the shuttle and others would
have specific roles on missions. To this end, incoming classes of astronauts
didn’t divide people by type. They took all types under one umbrella: pilots
and what NASA called mission specialists. And that’s still what NASA does when recruiting,
though occasionally there are payload specialist who are trained for a specific flights. But this doesn’t mean there aren’t strict
criteria for astronaut hopefuls of either type. The current base requirements from NASA say
candidates need to hold a bachelor’s degree in science or math and have at least some
jet experience under their belt. They have to be able to pass a physical exam,
have at least 20/20 vision, blood pressure below 140/90 at rest, and stand between 5
foot 2 and 6 foot 3. From there, the special skills are taught,
things like military water survival, SCUBA in anticipation of spacewalks, and specific
training for their individual mission. Since 1959, NASA has had some 350 American
men and women join its astronaut corps. They’ve done a combined 306 spacewalks over
150 missions. And new groups aren’t recruited regularly. NASA brings in astronauts on an as-needed
basis. So with all that you might think that astronauts
are a highly skilled trade and paid as such, right? Not exactly. Job openings for astronauts are announced
online at USAJOBS, the site for US civil service positions alongside listings for aviation
safety inspector, internal revenue agent, dental officer for the prison system, and
food inspector. And the pay is equivalent. That means the annual salary can be anywhere
between 50 and 114 thousand dollars. The qualifications for astronauts have loosened
but haven’t changed all that much since 1959. The latest class of 12 astronauts has three
recruits from the Navy, one Marine, one from the Air Force, and one from the Army. The other six are civilians. All have bachelor’s degrees and five have
doctorates. And only six among them already have flight
experience. So flying in space is awesome and badass,
but it’s not glamorous and you kinda gotta be a badass nerd to do it. Special thanks to our sponsor, Domain dot
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domain names and web hosting when you use coupon code SEEKER at checkout. Speaking of astronauts, have you even wondered
how they were able to fly through the Van Allen belts going to the Moon? I’ve got the answer here on my own channel,
Vintage Space! And did you know that NASA is going to the
sun? Get the deets here. Have any of you applied to be astronauts? Let us know in the comments below, be sure
to subscribe and thanks for watching Seeker


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