In Summary - Astronaut
Commands or pilots a spacecraft, or serves as a crew member during a space mission.
Astronauts typically work in the following Career Sectors:
The Work - Astronaut
Astronauts are trained to fly or be crew members on spacecraft. As an astronaut your duties would normally be split into two areas: maintenance and repair of the spacecraft and scientific experimentation and research.
Astronauts need to maintain the spacecraft and make sure that the environment onboard supports life. Work would include repairing, maintaining and testing oxygen production systems cleaning and testing air filters as well as maintaining water systems and testing for bacterial growth.
Work could also involve carrying out scientific experiments in space. This includes experiments designed to look at the effects of weightlessness on the body, or to explore how low gravity or ‘microgravity’ affects different processes.
Astronauts would set up and monitor experiments on the spacecraft such as growing ice crystals or developing space robotics. Communicating with Earth via satellite to transfer data back and send reports would also be required.
As well as carrying out research and maintenance some of your time in outer space would be taken up with normal everyday things like sleeping, eating and washing, which can be challenging in a low gravity environment. This affects your muscles and bone density, so you would also spend around two and a half hours a day exercising.
You would also get some free time to do other things like contact your family by email or satellite video, watch TV or read. Employment opportunities can be found with the European Space Agency or NASA.
Interests - Astronaut
This occupation is typically suited for people with the following Career Interests:
Realists are usually interested in 'things' - such as buildings, mechanics, equipment, tools, electronics etc. Their primary focus is dealing with these - as in building, fixing, operating or designing them. Involvement in these areas leads to high manual skills, or a fine aptitude for practical design - as found in the various forms of engineering.
Realists like to find practical solutions to problems using tools, technology and skilled work. Realists usually prefer to be active in their work environment, often do most of their work alone, and enjoy taking decisive action with a minimum amount of discussion and paperwork.
Administrative people are interested in work that offers security and a sense of being part of a larger process. They may be at their most productive under supervisors who give clear guidelines and while performing routine tasks in a methodical and reliable way.
They tend to enjoy clerical and most forms of office work, where they perform essential administrative duties. They often form the backbone of large and small organisations alike. They may enjoy being in charge of office filing systems, and using computers and other office equipment to keep things running smoothly. They usually like routine work hours and prefer comfortable indoor workplaces.
The Investigative person will usually find a particular area of science to be of interest. They are inclined toward intellectual and analytical activities and enjoy observation and theory. They may prefer thought to action, and enjoy the challenge of solving problems with sophiscticated technology. These types prefer mentally stimulating environments and often pay close attention to developments in their chosen field.
To be an astronaut, you'll need a high level of physical fitness to help with life while in space such as the cramped living conditions and the effects of low gravity on the body. You’ll also need to work well as part of a team, be good at solving problems and have the ability to keep calm in emergencies.
The following are the qualities required for a career as an Astronaut:
- excellent scientific and/or flight skills
- excellent physical condition and stamina
- psychological strength to live in confined spaces for long periods
- excellent teamworking skills
- the ability to stay calm during an emergency
- the ability to cope well with stress
- adaptability and good judgement.
Entry Requirements - Astronaut
Astronauts must have a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in engineering, biological science, physical science or mathematics. An advanced degree is desirable.
The European Space Agency (ESA) and US space agency NASA also require candidates to pass a strict physical exam and undergo training for the conditions and environments astronauts will encounter during launch, in space, and during landing.
Basic requirements for an Astronaut Pilot with NASA include the following:
1. Bachelor's degree from an accredited institution in engineering, biological science, physical science, or mathematics. An advanced degree is desirable. Quality of academic preparation is important.
2. At least 1,000 hours pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. Flight test experience is highly desirable.
3. Ability to pass a NASA space physical which is similar to a military or civilian flight physical and includes the following specific standards:
- Distant visual acuity: 20/100 or better uncorrected, correctable to 20/20 each eye.
- Blood pressure: 140/90 measured in a sitting position.
- Height between 62 and 75 inches.
The latest NASA recruitment round requires candidates to have at least three years of related, progressively responsible professional experience, or at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. For more information about a career as a NASA astronaut, and application requirements, see NASA Space Missions
Last Updated: November, 2015
Pay & Salary - Astronaut
Salary Range (thousands per year)* 49k - 92k
Last Updated: April, 2017
* The lower figures typically reflect starting salaries. Higher salaries are awarded to those with greater experience and responsibility. Positions in Dublin sometimes command higher salaries.