Sunday, November 6, 2011



Ever thought about being an astronaut? Calls for applications are publicized about every 4 years now; the last set was in 2008-2009… and hey, what do you know? There is another call now for selections taking place throughout 2012-2013.

You can see details at the Astronaut Selection Office, which uses the USAJOBS interface, where "Astronaut Hopefuls" or ASHOS are screened in group pools, then sectioned into the pilot category or mission specialists (latter classification also eventually includes payload specialists and mission educators).

2009 Astronaut Class Graduates
2009 ASCANS class complete basic training!

The minimum education requirement to be eligible as an astronaut candidate is a Bachelor's degree. The first person to fly in space with a PhD was Buzz Aldrin, who earned a Doctorate of Astronautics at MIT.

Being a SCUBA diver reeeeeeeally helps. Learn that.

Also, learn Russian. And if you’re really into thinking ahead, learn Chinese.

Things that cannot be learned? An astronaut candidate for the ISS or Exploration Vehicle program must be between 62 and 75 inches (157–190cm) tall. Blood pressure must remain under 140/90 in a sitting position to pass the physical. Visual acuity must be correctable to 20/20 on the Snellen chart.

Astronaut Selection
About two thirds of the US Astronaut Corps have military backgrounds, so service is helpful though not a must. Most of the military candidates from the Navy, followed closely by the Air Force. Handfuls come from the Marines and Army, and 2 have served in the Coast Guard.

Pilots fly the spacecraft and are eligible to become Commanders, while Mission Specialists perform scientific experiments and spacewalks. For Pilot candidates, the minimum pilot time experience is 1,000 hours in a jet.

The website, though sadly inactive since 2002, still has great tips and descriptions for making it to ASCAN status, not the least of which is their Ten Commandments:
  1. Keep smiling, but not grinning.

  2. Keep your humor harmless, pure and perfect.

  3. Keep your weaknesses to yourself. If you don't point them out to others, they will never see them.

  4. Never complain; make survival look easy.

  5. You are expected to say something nice after each flight, class, or simulation.

  6. If you can't say something nice, say something nice anyway.

  7. In particular, practice saying, "Thanks for pointing that out, sir/ma'am. I'll really work on that."

  8. Be aggressively humble and dynamically inconspicuous. Save your brilliance for your friends and family.

  9. Remember, whatever is encouraged is mandatory. Whatever is discouraged is prohibited.

  10. Nothing is sometimes a good thing to do and always a clever thing to say
Once a person is selected as an Astronaut Candidate, or ASCAN, they must undergo an intense 2-year training program before they are eligible to be inducted into the Astronaut Corps. Even once selected, it may take up to 10 years before an astronaut's first space flight.

For many years, ASHOS have used the Astronaut Hopefuls Yahoo Group to communicate, and more recently have tried Facebook Group pages for sharing their experiences.