Science and Technology Space

Who Is an Astronaut?


If you ever watched the famous film Apollo 13 in the mid-1990s, you certainly recall the ill-fated lunar mission of the Apollo spacecraft. Although an onboard explosion hampered the space mission, the film depicts three brave astronauts who showed determination […]

Major Paolo Angelo Nespoli is an Italian astronaut : A 60 years old man in space
Major Paolo Angelo Nespoli is an Italian astronaut : A 60 years old man in space

If you ever watched the famous film Apollo 13 in the mid-1990s, you certainly recall the ill-fated lunar mission of the Apollo spacecraft. Although an onboard explosion hampered the space mission, the film depicts three brave astronauts who showed determination to walk on the surface of the moon. The film highlights the life of an astronaut and the challenges involved in a space mission.

If you are wondering what being an astronaut involves, read on to discover who an astronaut is, and what their work involves.

First off, who’s an astronaut?

An astronaut is an individual trained to fly in outer space as a commander or as an active crew member of a spacecraft. As a crew member, an astronaut may be actively involved in space exploration activities. Most renowned astronauts come from the United States of America, Europe, Canada, and Russia.

An image of Apollo 13 astronauts:

An Astronaut’s Workplace

Astronauts do not work independently but are employees of the federal government. When not in space, they conduct frequent training exercises, write reports on work done, and attend formal meetings like other office workers.

When they fly out into space, astronauts spend time in a spacecraft, fixing defects or launching satellites into orbit from the space center. During a spacewalk, an astronaut must wear a special space suit to ensure safety and survival in case of a mishap. A space mission can last for a few weeks, months, or years, depending on the work.

Currently, the American-based National Aeronautics and Space Administration employs most astronauts. They spend the most time at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. At the space center, they use space simulators to sharpen their skills by practicing weightless maneuvers and underwater spacewalks.

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Image of an astronaut in a spacesuit by

Types of Astronauts

There are three main types of astronauts involved in space missions, namely; the pilot, commander, and mission specialist.

Pilot Astronaut

A pilot astronaut specializes in flying a space vehicle as a shuttle pilot or an international space station pilot. A pilot astronaut assists the commander in satellites deployment and handles the whole space flight.

Mission Specialist

A mission specialist is anyone trained in engineering, medicine, or science who assists the commander or pilot to conduct spacewalks, experiments, and launching satellites. Mission specialists may also perform spacecraft maintenance or act as mentors for students aspiring to join the space program.

The commander

The commander is the astronaut responsible for the crew and the success of a space mission. The commander also works in collaboration with other personnel who are not NASA’s employees.

How to Become an Astronaut

Do you dream of becoming an astronaut? Well, you can accomplish your dream by meeting the minimum set criteria and going through the rigorous training program.

Here is what it takes to become a NASA astronaut:


For admission into the NASA astronaut program, you must be a citizen of the United States of America. Candidates for the program may be civilians or military personnel.


The education requirement for a NASA astronaut is a minimum bachelor’s degree in engineering, mathematics, biological sciences, or physical sciences. In addition, you should have a minimum three-year period of professional experience in a related field or at least 1,000 hours of flight time as a pilot in command. Professional experience may involve teaching or pursuing a higher degree.

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Astronaut Physical Program

Space missions may sometimes end up disastrous, hence requiring special maneuver tactics to survive. As a result, potential candidates must undergo rigorous, long, and physical training before graduating as NASA astronauts. Before entry into the physical program, be sure to have 20/20 vision acuity and blood pressure not exceeding 140/90.

NASA explains how to become an astronaut:

Entry Phase

Upon entry, you will report for training at the Lyndon Johnson Space Centre. The first phase of your training will last for two years and is mostly classroom-based. You will learn about basic space systems in various disciplines, such as meteorology, earth sciences, space sciences, and engineering.

You will undergo practical survival training that prepares you for an unexpected landing on earth. It involves a swimming test and a scuba diving certification within the first month of your training.

In the test, you will swim for at least 75 meters in a pool without stopping and another 75 meters in a flight suit. You should also show the ability to tread water in a flight suit for at least 10 minutes.

Second Phase

A pass in the basic training guarantees your entry into the second phase, where you’ll be in a group of experienced astronauts. In this phase, you’ll learn the basics of a mission pre-launch, orbit entry, and landing. You’ll also gain mentorship and advice from seasoned astronauts.



Final Phase

Finally, the advanced phase lasts for 10 months and involves practical missions and crew assignments. The training focuses on real-time experiments to help you familiarize yourself with the tools and devices required for a space mission.

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Astronaut training by Free Documentary:

Any Skill Set?

Every profession requires several skills and a career in astronomy is no exception. You should be inquisitive and able to spend some quiet time trying to make little-known discoveries.

 In addition, creativity, innovation, rationality, and self-expression are all vital attributes. If you have one or many of these attributes, then astronautics may be a suitable profession for you.

How Much Will You Earn?

Because of the rigorous training and the risks involved, astronauts are among the best-remunerated professionals worldwide. According to NASA, civilian astronaut salaries fall within the federal government’s GS 12-GS13 pay grade. This ranges between $65,140-$100,701 annually. In addition, military astronauts are entitled to military benefits, pay, and annual leave.

Are you dreaming of a career in astronautics? Becoming an astronaut is glamorous, although full of its share of challenges. However, with this simple guide, you are well armed to consider a career in space.

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