Have you ever dreamt of becoming an astronaut? If the answer is yes, you must know that it is not an impossible dream in today’s time of globalization. The world famous space research institutions NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), USA and ESA (European Space Agency), Europe recruit highly talented people from all over the world for their space mission projects.
There are two different types of astronauts: Pilot Astronauts and Mission Specialists. The major responsibility of a pilot astronaut is to fly the space shuttle and navigate the space station while mission specialists are responsible for scientific experiments in space. There’s no age limit for becoming an astronaut, but only a U.S. citizen can apply for the position of NASA astronaut. For becoming an ESA astronaut, you should be a national from a member country. The European Astronaut Corps, ESA currently consists of Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Sweden.
The typical space mission crew consists of five people: the commander, the pilot, and three mission specialists. The commander is responsible for the entire crew, the space shuttle, and the success of the space mission. The pilot acts as the assistant to the commander. The responsibilities of mission specialists include coordination of space shuttle operations and performing space experiments.
Selection criteria for a Mission Specialist include a Bachelor’s degree in engineering, biological science, physical science or mathematics which must be followed by three years of professional experience. Advanced academic qualifications are an added advantage. The candidate should have the ability to pass a NASA physical examination which is the first step towards the selection process. The parameters for the physical exam include good eye vision,noraml blood pressure and height between 58.5 and 76 inches.
Pilot Astronaut Candidate should have the same qualifications as mission specialists but additionally he should have minimum 1000 hours of jet flying experience. The parameters for the physical exam include good eye vision, normal blood pressure and height between 64 and 76 inches.
The selected candidates are given training for one or two years. During the NASA training program, trainees practice space-shuttle operations, scuba diving and spacewalks in full-size models of the shuttle and space station.
The application form for NASA jobs can be downloaded from http://www.nasajobs.nasa.gov/jobs/astronauts/aso/astroapp.htm and completed application forms can be sent to: Astronaut Selection Office; Mail Code AHX; Johnson Space Center; Houston TX 77058-3696.
As far as ESA is concerned, health, intelligence and fitness requirements are similar to NASA. More details are available at http://www.esa.int/esaHS/ESA1RMGBCLC_astronauts_0.html.