Saturday 18 November 2017

NASA is hiring astronauts - here's what you need to apply

View from the office

Nice day at the office? Photo: Deposit
Nice day at the office? Photo: Deposit
Expedition 43 NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly takes part in the spin chair training during media day, Saturday, March 21, 2015 IN Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Expedition 33 crew members Sunita Williams and Aki Hoshide during NBL EVA training. Photo: NASA/Robert Markowitz
Astronaut Expedition 39/40 (Soyuz 38) astronaut Steve Swanson during ISS Maintenance EVAAT at the NBL. Photo: NASA/BILL STAFFORD
View from the International Space Station. Twitter Photo: Terry W. Virts (@AstroTerry)/NASA
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

NASA is hiring astronaut candidates, with the potential to travel further into space than humans have ever been.

The latest job posting, on usajobs.gov, invites candidates to apply for the position at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center before February 18.

Securing an office view like the one above is neither simple nor straightforward, of course, with only a handful of candidates landing the coveted roles.

Who may apply?

This announcement is open to all qualified U.S. citizens (the European Space Agency has its astronaut guidelines here).

How much does it pay?

A salary range of $66,026 to $144,566 per year is advertised. At current exchange rates that equates to roughly €58,000 to €128,400.

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Expedition 33 crew members Sunita Williams and Aki Hoshide during NBL EVA training. Photo: NASA/Robert Markowitz

Why should I consider it?

NASA is in the midst of "an unprecedented transition" to using commercial spacecraft for its scheduled crew and cargo transport to the ISS.

Future Astronaut Candidates will have the opportunity "to explore farther in space than humans have ever been," it says.

They may fly on the International Space Station (ISS), two new commercial spacecraft being built by U.S. companies, and NASA's Orion deep-space exploration vehicle, which will conduct complex operations in a deep space environment before moving on to longer duration missions on the journey to Mars, it says.

What minimum qualifications do I need?

1. A Bachelor's degree from an accredited institution in engineering, biological science, physical science, computer science, or mathematics.

2. At least three years of related, progressively responsible, professional experience obtained after degree completion OR at least 1,000 hours pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. Teaching experience is also required.

3. Candidates must pass a swimming test during the first month of training, and the NASA long-duration astronaut physical requires:

  • Visual acuity correctable to 20/20 (glasses are acceptable)
  • Blood pressure that doesn't exceed 140/90 in a sitting position
  • A standing height of 62-75 inches

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Expedition 43 NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly takes part in the spin chair training during media day, Saturday, March 21, 2015 IN Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls

What else should I note?

  • A pre-employment background investigation is required
  • This is a drug-testing designated position
  • Frequent travel may be required
  • Selectees must pass a pre-employment medical examination
  • A financial disclosure statement must be completed

What are the odds of success?

Slim. A reported 4,000-8,000 candidates apply for each round, with 8-35 selected. And that's before the final training and evaluation process.

What are an astronaut's duties?

Astronauts are involved in all aspects of training for and conducting operations in space, and in the development and testing of future spacecraft.

This includes extravehicular activities (EVA), robotics operations, the ability to operate and conduct research experiments, the ability to operate as a safe member of an aircraft crew, and spacecraft maintenance activities, NASA says.

Astronauts also participate in mission simulations to help themselves and flight controllers in the Mission Control Center operate in low earth orbit.

Additionally, astronauts serve as the public face of NASA, providing appearances across the country, and sharing NASA's discoveries and goals... a role brought to new heights by the YouTube-shredding performances of Chris Hadfield.

How long could I spend in space?

Long-duration missions aboard the ISS generally last from three to six months. Training is "very arduous" and takes two to three years, NASA says.

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Astronaut Expedition 39/40 (Soyuz 38) astronaut Steve Swanson during ISS Maintenance EVAAT at the NBL. Photo: NASA/BILL STAFFORD

When will selections be announced?

Selections will be announced in the spring of 2017. Selected candidates will report for duty at the Johnson Space Center in the fall of 2017.

Selection as a candidate does not guarantee selection as an astronaut - final selection depends on a two-year training and evaluation period.

Read the full Astronaut Candidate requirements here.

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