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The Making of an Astronaut

In classrooms, realistic simulators and virtual reality environments, International Space Station crewmembers prepare for long-duration missions.

IMAGE: Analog

The most exciting day for anyone who wants to travel into space is the day he or she is selected to be an astronaut candidate. Then the real work begins. It can take up to two years of training to become a fully qualified astronaut. You must learn the basics of the space shuttle and the International Space Station, as well as how to be part of a team by flying the NASA T-38 training jets.

Studying for Space
IMAGE: Expedition 7 crew in training
Expedition 7 NASA ISS Science Officer Ed Lu, left, and Commander Yuri Malenchenko study for their mission. 
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After you finish your initial training period as an astronaut candidate, you will be given a technical assignment. In that job, you will support astronauts who are already in space and those who are training to go. There you will wait, sometimes for years, for the next most exciting day of your life -- the day you are assigned to a space flight. If you did well in your initial training and worked hard at your technical assignment, one day the chief of the Astronaut Office will ask you if you'd still like to go to space. Most people don't take too long to answer that question!

Training to Live and Work Aboard the Space Station

If you are assigned to fly aboard the space station as an Expedition crewmember, you will need about 18 months of training. It may take longer than 18 months, though, if you haven't received any specific training on the space station systems you'll be using during your mission, or if you don't have the required language skills. It helps to have trained as a backup to another expedition crewmember and to have learned to speak Russian. Astronauts must be able to understand Russian so they can talk with the Russian Mission Control Center and to understand their Russian instructors. If you're going to live and work on the International Space Station, you'll need to speak at least two languages. Knowing more than two languages is even better!

During your 18 months of training, you will make many trips between the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, just outside Moscow. There are usually eight or nine such training trips to each country. You might also go to Canada to train on the Space Station's robotic arm. In the future, station crewmembers will also train in Europe and Japan when the modules from the European Space Agency and Japanese Space Agency are added to the space station.

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 08/23/2004
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