What it’s like to become a NASA Astronaut - 10 surprising facts

TheCareerHub, 4th December, 2020


The thought of unravelling the mysteries of our universe fascinates each one of us. It all starts at the school level when we are introduced to the topic of planets, where we learn that earth is just one of the many planets. I am sure most of you would have visited the Nehru Planetarium in Mumbai to get a closer and more authentic experience of a different world through a telescope.

With Apollo 11 becoming a matter of the past, many nations, including India, achieved that feat, going to the moon for a holiday. The world is sprinting in the race to discover possibilities on other planets like Mars. Space agencies like the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) are often making revelations beyond imagination these days.

But do you know what it feels like to become a NASA Astronaut? Let us dig into 10 surprising facts about becoming a NASA astronaut.

1. No Age Restrictions for NASA Candidates

Yes, you read it right. There are no specific age criteria to become a part of the NASA astronaut training program. There have been candidates in their 20s and 70s who were accepted into the program. Although, you need to have an excellent vision and solid academic background in STEM subjects. But getting an age waiver could be what you need to join this elite group.

2. Swimming in your flight suits

The trainees are expected to swim through multiple laps of a massive pool with their shoes and flight suits on, weighing around 250 pounds. It also includes exercises like treading water and undergoing a Navy designed water survival test. Apart from that, you are also expected to become scuba certified.

3. Training in Crater Fields

To give trainees a space and experience, they train their candidates in Arizona's crater fields. A crater is a big hole on land similar to that on the moon. Some were natural, and others were made by explosion later to run simulations. This will help trainees in mapping and surveying uneven surfaces in space.

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4. Mastering Russian

This is another challenge in the path to becoming an astronaut. The way to reach the International Space Station (ISS) is by getting on a Russian spaceship. It is essential to master the Russian language to understand instructions and jargon. This has been in practice since the 1960s.

5. Getting used to staying underwater

This is a crucial part of the training where trainees have to spend nearly 6-8 hours underwater, equivalent to 1 hour in outer space. This trains them to get used to weightlessness. This training is done with space suits and safety divers for assistance. Apart from that, you also get trained in docking and ship repairing.

6. Riding the Microgravity' Vomit Comet'

This is another drill to get used to weightlessness. One in three trainee astronauts throw up during this exercise; therefore, the planes are known as Vomit Comets. Historically it wasn't easy to conduct these exercises, but today there are special planes that provide such an environment.

7. Toilet Training

What if I tell you it takes skill to do potty and urine? Due to the lack of gravity in outer space, the trainees have to practice pooping in a commode that is less than half the standard size using vacuum suction. After all, no one wants floating urine and poop in their proximity.

8. Sharpen your survival instincts

The agency tries to cover all the worst-case scenarios in their training course. Of course, these are guided by experts, but it does push you to the limits. This may include days in the jungle, plane crash drills, doing first-aids and surviving on limited emergency supplies.

9. Using Air Hockey Tables

Imagine yourself and some other object floating in space. It is challenging to keep it still and keep things in place with little gravity. NASA has designed unique rooms to practice such situations and become a pro. Due to the size of the air-filled floor, it is popularly named as 'Air Hockey Table'.

10. There is no timeline for a trip to space.

After completion of the basic program, you may need to undergo another specialized training before you can go into space. For many, it could be a wait for years. During their pre-space assignment, they are expected to complete other routine projects.

If this is not enough, you can check out more fun facts about astronauts. But one thing is assured: if you can survive a training like this, you can achieve anything in life. You are special if you make it to a program where less than 1% of the applicants qualify.


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