Becoming an astronaut: The selection process

Becoming an astronaut: The selection process

Choosing NASA's astronauts is not a simple process. In March, 12,040 hopefuls, already in possession of a master's degree, applied to be members of the next class.

  • The selection process involves a written application and reference checks as the process narrows down. Then, around 120 applicants will be invited to the first round of interviews.
  • Some skills analysis and basic medical testing will be done, and then 40 to 60 people will be back for the second round of interviews.
  • During the second round, they spend a week doing some team reaction exercises, individual performance exercises, and checking other competencies.
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Interpersonal skills are essential: teamwork, followership, leadership, communication skills, especially under stress and over a long-duration, such as a mission to the moon, or Mars.

Astronauts should be able to modulate their skillset, and maybe even their personality, to be prepared for what's needed at the time: Sometimes you are in charge of issuing orders and commanding respect. Other times you might be following orders that mission control sends up.

The focus is on operational experience in situations where they will make real-time decisions in a relatively high-stress environment. To gain this experience, people tend to go to the Antarctic or do wilderness rescue. They may also get their private pilot's license. Teamwork and leadership experience is essential.

When going through so many resumes, it's the unique things that stand out.

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The International Space Station

The ISS is a multi-nation super satellite, the largest single construct in space, made between 1998 and 2011.

  • As of 2018, 230 astronauts and 18 countries have visited the International Space Station. It includes contributions(money and resources) from 15 nations like Russia, USA, and Europe.

  • The ISS is assisted (and even controlled) by mission control centers in Houston and Moscow, along with a payload control center in Huntsville, Ala.

International Space Station: Facts, History & Tracking

space.com

Different suits serve different purposes

Space exploration includes two kinds of spacesuits:

  • One is worn inside a spacecraft during launch and ascent to space, during re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere and during landing.
  • The other kind is designed specifically for spacewalks. NASA calls a spacewalk an Extra-Vehicular Activity or EVA, so this type of suit is called an EVA suit. It is a miniature spaceship shaped like a human body that protects from dangers such as radiation, dust, debris, and extreme temperatures.

Spacesuit Basics

nasa.gov

Mars
  • Mars has captivated people since we first saw the reddish hue object in the night sky. In the late 1800s, telescopes revealed a surface full of patterns and landforms thought to be a bustling Martian civilisation.
  • Now, we know there are no constructions on Mars. However, the toxic planet we see today might have once been as habitable as Earth.
  • Only uncrewed spacecraft have made a trip to the red planet. NASA is hoping to land the first humans on Mars by the 2030s.

Why we explore Mars—and what decades of missions have revealed

nationalgeographic.com

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