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Astronaut Program

How can I become an astronaut?
Any adult man or woman in excellent physical condition who meets the basic qualifications can be selected to enter astronaut training.

For mission specialists and pilot astronauts, the minimum requirements include a bachelor's degree in engineering, science or mathematics from an accredited institution. Three years of related experience must follow the degree, and an advanced degree is desirable. Pilot astronauts must have at least 1,000 hours of experience in jet aircraft, and they need better vision than mission specialists. Competition is extremely keen, with an average of over 4,000 applicants for about 20 openings every 2 years. Astronaut recruiting occurs periodically. For more information, see Astronaut Selection and Training or write to the Astronaut Selection Office, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX 77058.

Is it possible for a flight controller or even a flight director to become an astronaut?
It IS possible for flight controllers to become astronauts, and this has happened many times. A few flight controllers get to become flight directors.

Training: How do the astronauts train using the robotic arm on Earth, seeing there is gravity? Would the arm support its own weight on Earth?
For robotic arm training, the astronauts use several different simulators, with each possessing its own strengths. The Shuttle Engineering Simulator (SES) and the Shuttle Mission Simulator (SMS) are two computer simulators that are used extensively. Each one has actual switches and hand controllers to maneuver a computer model of the arm and the payload. Another heavily used simulator is the Mission Development Facility (MDF). This simulator utilizes real hardware, which includes a hydraulic robot arm, payload mock-ups, and cameras. To assist EVA operations, the NASA Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) has an underwater robotic arm. This is used to train the crew in joint EVA and arm operations.

What specific roles are the commander and pilot responsible for during the mission?
The Commander is the captain of the ship, and makes all real-time critical decisions on behalf of the crew and in coordination with the MCC. The Commander also flies the shuttle during approach and landing, and is trained and ready to take over from the computers and fly at all other times. The Pilot is the Commander's understudy, and is fully trained to do all the same tasks as required. Commanders fly at least once as Pilots before they move into the left seat. Both participate in experiments and on-orbit operations, with some limitations. They are not allowed to do spacewalks, as we can't afford to have them stuck outside during an emergency deorbit. They also don't normally operate the Canadarm, as it is a specialized task separate from flying the vehicle.

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 04/07/2002
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