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Astronaut ranks and positions

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Astronauts hold a variety of ranks and positions, and each of these roles carries responsibilities that are essential to the operation of a spacecraft. A spacecraft's cockpit, filled with sophisticated equipment, requires skills differing from those used to manage the scientific equipment on board, and so on.

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>> [Background noise] Welcome back inside of Mission Control Houston, pretty special treat right now if former Exhibition 29 Commander Mike Fossum with me. Mike, thanks so much for joining me here today. >> Hey, you bet. It's great to be back in Mission Control. >> Yeah, we always love having you on. So we have three more astronauts getting ready to launch this Saturday. So why don't you walk us through a little bit about what they're doing, you know, the week before launch. >> Oh, you bet. It's exciting right now for the -- Yuri Malenchenko the [inaudible] commander, Suni -- Sunita or Suni Williams and Aki Hoshide. They've been in training for about [background noise] two and a half years. And so it's really a neat time right now as they're -- after all of this training. They've been training around the globe, you know, the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, Germany and... >> All over the place. >> All over, and have been on -- for Suni and Aki they've been on the road about 50% of the time for the last two and a half years, and all those trainings finally coming together and they've been in Kazakhstan and Baikonur Cosmodrome for about a week and a half. We arrived there two weeks before the launch. And so it's really a -- it's a fascinating time because it's [Background noise] very different and that two and a half years is busy but in ways it feels -- it feels like you're just moving or you're not really moving. You're not getting any closer. You're just going through the motions, you're packing your bag, you're going -- you're doing more training and you get closer and closer, and at this point though, as they're in Baikonur going through the fit checks -- final training and you can feel things picking up speed and just your life seems to be accelerating. >> Oh yes. >> As your -- I think of it as like floating on a big long, lazy river [background chuckle] and that river is dropping into a slight canon now and you can feel it. Everything's a little more -- a little more frantic. A little busier [Background noise] and you're going through some of these things for the last time finally and so your whole world is picking up speed and it's going to continue to accelerate for them all the way up to when they head out to the launch pad on Monday, and it's -- there's a lot of traditions and stuff too. So it's a very exciting time, it's a neat thing [background noise] and Suni and Aki both launched on the space shuttle for their first flights. And so this is very different for them to be going -- through the preparations to launch on the Russian Soyuz Rocket and there's all -- but the training of course is very different, as they have gone through so many different things. When they get to Baikonur though, part of what they do is actual fit checks with the real rocket. We -- the crews don't -- we spend a lot of time in trainers which are actually flown Soyuz capsules that have been modified to make into trainers, but not a real -- a real ship. And so a couple of times during these two weeks here they go into the real ship in suits and make sure that everything is where they expect it. It gives them a chance to put a little bit of Velcro on the walls, to put their timers up and things like that. You become accustomed to what it's like to climb [background noise] down into the ship through the hatches up above you. It's at the top of the capsule that we launch in and in the trainers we usually come through an add-on hatch. It's added to the side. And so here you practice going, dropping down in there, getting into your seat and it's really tight as you can see from the videos that we have. >> Oh yeah. >> It's very tight inside the Soyuz and the crew is -- you know, they're not sitting in a chair; they're really lying on their backs in a seat pan that's molded to their bodies to help protect them from landing loads -- the dynamics of that. >> So really their first chance to get inside the space craft that's going to carry them to orbit and that like you said two years coming to fruition just this last week, moving really quickly. >> Right, that's exactly right. And so it's a very busy time, it's exciting and -- you know, you go through it and you look at it and you just put your hands on everything, touch it, make sure that it's where you expect I, and kind of get comfortable. And that's a way of -- okay on launch day then okay I've already strapped in a couple of times. I've been in here; we're ready to rock and roll. We're ready for it. >> Ready for the ride. >> We're ready, yeah. >> Okay, well aside from some of these final tests and the fit checks and things like that I know there are a lot of ceremonies and different traditions that come when you're flying on these Russian vehicles. What are some of the things that they're doing this week? >> Yeah, some of those traditions are very different from the American side. One of the really neat ones is the crew is staying in a quarantine facility that we stay in Baikonur, it's called the Cosmonaut Hotel. It's not a classic hotel. >> It's not a five-star resort. >> No, no it's not a five star. It's definitely a government facility. It's nice, it's no problem. But out behind there this -- this facility is kind of a compound. I mean it's fenced and guarded and stuff to a -- because we -- the crew needs to be in a quarantine during that time. >> Yeah. >> So nobody comes in contact with the crew that hasn't been medically cleared and we minimize the amount of contact because you don't want to launch just on the verge of getting sick. >> Yep. >> The transition to space is bad enough. We're not adding a cold or something on top of it too and sharing it with your crew mates which everybody would really love. So you're kind of cooped up in this facility, but out behind it within the compound walls and you're on the banks of the Syrdarya River that's a very historic place. It was actually the border of Alexandra the Great's domain right there. >> Wow. >> And this location is also on the Silk Highway for the ancient trade from China to Europe and so it's a very historic kind of location on a way -- on a post out there. But behind the cosmonaut hotel inside the compound it's called the Cosmonaut Allay or Cosmonaut Way and there's trees lining this. The first tree was planted by Yuri Gagarin. >> Oh, so this goes all the way back to... >> This goes all the way back 50 years and so, I'm not sure Eerie planted it before he flew but it was pretty close there. And so each crew before -- if you've not yet flown on a Russian rocket then as part of this final preparation you go out and plant your tree, [Background noise] and it's such a cool thing to go out and walking down these path ways here, is a walk through history as you see the names of the famous people from space history and the Apollo Soyuz crew have their names out there too. They were recognized by the Russians and have trees out there. And so it's really a cool thing to take part in and to go out and actually plant your tree and know that on this -- and this place is on the edge of the earth. It is way out -- out there and there's now a tree with a little sign post on it with my name on it. >> Wow. >> As just one of these people that has stood there with these other explorers. And so it's really a -- kind of a neat tradition to be a part of that and [Background noise] walk through and see the -- again the Russians and going way back to the Soviet days, as well as many of the Americans now who have flown with the Russians and other partners from around the globe. >> So a place really just heaved in tradition. What are some of the other things that you guys are doing? During the weekend I know there's a Red Square visit at some point. >> Yeah a lot of the other things the Red Square visit and the Kremlin visit takes place in the Moscow region before we leave there. >> Okay. >> The crew goes through a final exams which they finish those up around three and a half to four weeks before launch. Their big final exams in Russia and then there's a little bit of down time week and a half or so, where you can finish -- you're done with exams you're doing with training and you can get your stuff packed up. >> School's out. >> School's out, but you can't relax too much. Kind of get your things packed up. Take care of all the things you need to take care of before leaving the planet for half a year and included in that is a trip to Red Square to lay flowers on the Kremlin wall to recognize the graves of some of the early explorers like Yuri Gagarin and Serge Chaloff who was the chief rocket designer back in the day and it's a neat part of the tradition and -- and as an American, it was pretty humbling to be part of that and to imagine because the -- my early memories of seeing pictures of Red Square were not in a positive light... >> Yeah. >> ...and it was an exotic place but it was also a scary place and we were at odds with each other. And so, now for me to actually be walking on Red Square and to be participating in these kinds of ceremonies is very humbling. Hard to -- would have been impossible to imagine twenty or so years ago. >> Oh yeah. >> But now we're doing those kinds of things and now also in Baikonur we're doing their quarantine time here. I know the crews -- Suni especially she's a runner and I know she's running along the banks of the Syrdarya River out there -- just about every day. >> I think she's training to do a triathlon [chuckle] during her space slide at some point. >> Summer Olympics are coming up and so I don't think she's going to run -- do a crazy long distance but -- she's definitely athletic and for me that was a great thing. I really loved running there. With escort we can get out and take a jog along the river and it's a very different place. You don't -- there were times we had to change our route because there were camels, literally camels like, laying on the trail and it's like, "Okay, don't go too close." >> You were really out on the edge of nowhere when you're out there. >> Yeah, it really feels like it and that's -- that's kind of a neat feeling and for me, you know, I like to get out and jog too, get out in the fresh air and do a lot of things outside and knowing that I was going to be inside half a year. >> Yep, yep. >> I wanted to go out there and soak up a little bit of sun and just to smell the earth and that kind of thing. So I know that they're doing those kinds of things too. They're doing final -- some of the training they were doing yesterday was some rendezvous training. So they're practicing the manual flying skills and that's mostly Yuri doing the flying with Suni and Aki assisting. >> Yeah. >> And actually Suni is practicing doing some other flying too. She's able to back him up if need be which we don't expect to happen, but you -- you train for those kind of things. And so they -- they're shown here training on the simulator on these controls. Of course it's not like laying on the Soyuz but those are the actual controls that they use on the space craft and he's looking at a screen that shows him an image like the image you'll see through what we call the periscope. There's final procedure reviews where you're going through your final books, your main Soyuz instructor who's been with you a lot especially in that last year and he'll go through and you're going through everything you're going to do and reviewing it one more time and making sure you understand all the details and you're ready to go. >> The training really just does not stop until you are strapped into that space craft ready to go. Let's touch on that real quick, the difference between launching on the Soyuz and a shuttle. Different sensations? >> Oh yeah, it's very different. For me the first time I saw the [inaudible] Soyuz because we'd never seen it, was when I was there as a back crew member for Katy Colman [Background noise] and the -- "Wow that's it." [Laughter] I'm used to the signs of a shuttle which is what the external tank and solid rock boosters and everything. It's a really massive a -- massive rocket and the Soyuz is not a big truck. It's very efficient at delivering people though. So it hauls people and a couple of hundred pounds of supplies and it's very efficient at that but it's a lot smaller vehicle to -- what it's like out there though -- there's a little bit of difference. One thing that we'll see on Saturday [Background noise] as the crew is going out to their launch is they'll go through a full suit up and a pressure check of their suits and where in the American program for shuttle flights that was all done in a suit room with just the technicians and stuff. >> Yeah. >> And then you do a final walkout and a wave to the crowd and get in the bus and go to the pad, and in Kazakhstan and in the Baikonur Cosmodrome, we're doing that with the press on the other side of glass. >> Oh wow. >> And our families and usually some of our guest that come over are allowed to watch this too. So it's really strange thing to have all of these people watching and observing as you're going through a real pressure check of the suit. The backup crew will be standing right behind them, they're ready to take their place if need be. And so, you know, you go through that and then they'll walk out of that building and they'll actually salute into the head of the Russian Space Agency or the space program depending on who the highest ranking person there might be and the crew goes out and reports in. And this is the iconic image that we've seen, you know, in history and in all our lives what it's like for the Russians to walk out and salute in like that and then get in on the bus and go for a fairly short ride -- you know, to the launch pad. Another thing that surprised me about going out to the launch pad was just the number of people that were out there. There were quite a few people out there to document it and a lot of the managers take you all the way out to the rocket itself and, you know, shake your hand and wave goodbye as you get on the elevator and head up to climb into the rocket. So I was a little surprised at how many people are actually involved and finally you get on the elevator. It's a really tiny elevator [chuckle] and go up to the top. And it's like, "Okay, now we're alone it's just us and a very small crew that's helping us strap in and secure the hatches behind us. As you drop in kind of a side hatch in the very top part there's two pieces to the Soyuz that we can get into the main capsule that we ride up and down in is kind of in the middle of the stack. >> Yeah. >> The orbit module up above has a side hatch that we go through there into that small volume and it's about a total of six cubic meters and then we drop down into the, descent module I call it and -- so we have the orbit module it's at the very top and we come through a side hatch in that, and then we drop down through a hatch into the middle part. Kind of a gum drop shape descent module and all three crew members are in the descent module and you take turns, the two guys on the outside, you know, getting strapped in and there's a lot of hoses and connectors to have oxygen line and ventilation line, communication and a bio medical so the doctors are actually monitoring heart rate, some basic parameters and you do that you start strapping in a little over -- about two and a half hours prior to launch. >> Okay like I said you're not sitting up, you're down on your back. >> You're on your back. >> You're almost kind of tuned in there. >> Yeah, he seat itself it's a big metal pan that from your bottom up to the top of your head and your knees are up and actually held by straps up into position. And there's the seat right there and you see the liner around it is actually form-fitted. These are just training unit we see here but the ones for flight are form-fitted to your body. They actually pour a mold over your body and build it. So it's like a Jell-O mold that's holding your body perfectly. And so at this point pre-launch you're getting in and you just -- you just -- you fit in that thing. You don't just -- [noise and chuckling] and a there's no -- the downside is there's very little room to move around by intent. >> Yeah. >> It's designed so it's really tight. You go through the system checks. You check all the parameters, you check that the handles and everything nothing bumped in the process of getting in. You have flight procedures that you're looking at strapping those down and making sure you've got the right pages kind of earmarked there, little tabs on them so you can find important things and to through. And then as the close-out crew is closing hatches behind you or activating the systems inside the space craft -- make sure ventilation radios all this carbonate oxide removal system is working and stuff like that and the close-out crew is backing their way out. And the hatch at the top here is the one that we will not open until after we've attached to the station. It's a great video of the inside of the orbit module. There's a little more room in here that the silver container has a -- has a few days' worth of food and stuff. This looks like there's a lot of room in the capsule but there's really not -- that little shelf area there is covered -- filled up with supplies that are all tied down. >> Oh, okay. >> That was a little surprise when you get into the real one. But anyway you get strapped in about two and a half hours prior. You go through the system checks and stuff and then there's extra time added in to the scheduling in case something needs to be repaired, a communication line's not working or something like that. >> Yep. >> So they leave a little bit of time and every once in a while something comes up and you need it. So it's a good thing to do. Ours went perfectly fine, so we had time to just sit there kind of talk a little bit. The ground is talking to us and you spend a little quiet time too kind of heading the game and looking at the procedures again, going through it one more time. Thinking, okay this is going to happen this is going to happen and making sure I can touch my controls that I was responsible for -- that kind of stuff. When it's going really well, they have time to play a little music... >[Inaudible]. >> ...that's it. Kind of a neat tradition that the Russians have. They actually pump some crew choice music out to the launch pad as just a way of kind of helping the crew relax a little bit. >> Do they take requests before you guys hop out? >> They do take requests, that's right [chuckle]. >> Well that's an amazingly in depth. So we know our next three crew members are going to be looking forward to doing that. They have all their ceremonies this week, steeped in tradition, it sounds like an amazing place. >> Oh yeah I missed some of them for the walk out. The crew is staying in this quarantined facility and when it's actually time to walk out they sign the door to their rooms... >> Oh. >> ...and so we'll see that Saturday. There's a door signing ceremony. So everybody gets to sign the door to their room and then these doors are getting. When they fill up I guess they remove the doors to a museum and they get start -- the next crew starts with a fresh door. >> Are they getting full yet? >> They're getting there. >> They're getting there. >> Yeah, and then you walk out and they'll be a Russian Orthodox priest will bless the crew. >> Okay. >> And then that's part of their tradition there. It involves kind of a liberal application of holy water which is always a little bit amusing to watch the crew as they get slightly drenched. [Chuckle] And from there, its walk out to the -- there's a large crowd of people there... >> Yeah. >> ...waving and as the crew heads out. So it's all part of the tradition so we're living up to it. And once you get, you know, into the rocket and it's finally go time, the big difference from a shuttle flight was how quiet it is. On a space shuttle a lot of the dynamics were from the solid rocket boosters that burn with a lot of popping and crackling and the people that were fortunate enough to see one in person you could actually feel that. >> I remember it just hits you like a weight when the sound wave gets to you. >> Yeah exactly, and it -- it kind a -- you know, pounds on, you can feel it and you can feel that -- those dynamics coming up through the shuttle stack and it actually makes it, you know, a little hard to read the displays and controls because everything's moving for the first two minutes. For the Soyuz it's real quiet. It starts off and it's a little disconcerting to people that are used to watching the shuttle because the main engines come up and a few seconds of checking and then boom. The Soyuz' light and you leap off the pad. Soyuz moves off the pad more slowly and the engines are running -- it's about eight seconds before it starts to move and so it seems -- like is everything okay? >> Is it going? Is it really going? >> Yep. And -- it's kind of neat because the way the launch pad works is the rocket it's not really bolted down the way we would bolt -- traditionally bolted ours down. It's held down by the weight. There's these big pads that are literally push-holding the side of the rocket and the way that the rocket pushes them down and creates the friction that holds it in place. So the rocket is suspended there and once the rocket starts to lift off it releases this and it releases the arms which just spring out of the way then. And so it's a very odd looking thing. As they -- the first arms that are coming back that's just some of the support stuff that includes elevator and everything. At this point the rockets is just held in place by these -- by these smaller arms that are literally just held there by the weight of the rocket itself and you see those down around the base as the rocket comes to life and it starts to light up. It's about eight seconds and it's a little slow motion here but it's -- and just watch as the rocket starts to lift off and then those are released. Now they're not bolted on it's just held there by just the mechanics of the weight. The ride's smooth. There are very little vibration in it, very little really sensation of sound or anything. I mean you are inside the capsule... >> Yeah. >> ...inside the comet and everything but after the -- in about a minute and a half or so the escape rocket fires off, the Soyuz have some strap-on boosters, four boosters that around the base to help get moving, get off the pad and start to clear the atmosphere too. And so it's multiple stages. This is the end of the second stage here, as it falls away. We call it the second stage and then the third stage lights up and that pushes you to orbit. The whole thing just takes about nine minutes. >> Really quick really cool. >> It's like you go from sitting still on the ground to going over 17,000 miles an hour and you are zero G weightless then in just nine minutes. And the way we do it now, well once the vehicle gets to orbit of course it has to get activated now and things like unfurling the solar rays which the Soyuz uses sunlight to generate electricity. So you have to unfurl the solar rays, go through the other systems checks and then there's a couple of burns typically to circularize the orbit and then to set up the [Background noise] rendezvous and what they'll be doing is setting up a rendezvous about two days after launch, almost -- it's about 50 hours after launch, the crew will be docking to the space station. And so that's a real precise maneuver to get the orbit fine-tuned. So after the first few orbits surround the earth after launch they'll be doing some of those little maneuver corrections. >> Just a little cramped in there for two days I'd imagine. >> Well if you were just inside the capsule it would be almost intolerable because there's just -- there's no room to stretch your legs out it's really tight. Once you get to orbit and take care of the maneuvers that you need to do and there's some pressure checks to make sure that that orbital module, the top part is holding pressure. So you go through very careful checks. >> Yeah. >> Once that all checks out then you could open up the hatch and get out of your seats and get changed out of the suits. You don't spend the full two days in the suits... >> Yeah. >> ...and it's nice to have a little bit of room to stretch out and get a bite to eat. And your food and your water are up there, things like that. >> Then once you dock you have more room then you know to do it since you're on board. >> Oh, it's such a big difference, you bet. Even the two habitable parts of the Soyuz space craft have just 10 cubic meters total before you add seats, instrument panels and all of these... >> It takes up a lot. >> ...which take up half of it. So there's not much volume to work with. Once you get to the station it's really fun to watch especially new guys as they're coming across the hatch because it's like wow. In the Soyuz you can stick [Background noise] out your arms and touch both walls and there's not -- you're floating but you're not traveling. >> Yeah. >> You're not flying anywhere. You're floating there but you're not really propelling yourself and moving around. >> You don't get to have fun with it yet. >> You're not having fun with it yet. No time for stupid astronaut tricks yet. But when you get into the station though it's actually very disorienting first because it's so big and you're trying to figure out how to move, because you haven't had any practice moving. >> Yeah. >> And so it's like you watch -- you watch them. Of course none of these -- none of these guys going up this time are rookies. >> Yeah. >> So they're -- I guarantee there's going to be... >> So they'll all be pros by the time -- they don't have to crawl before they run. >> No, no, they'll be fine. They'll be a little bit tentative right at [Background noise] first as they're getting their space legs back. >> It's like riding a bike though. >> It's like riding a bike, oh yeah [chuckle]. >> All right, well we'll certainly be looking forward to that launch coming up this Saturday. >> Yeah. >> Expedition 29 Commander Mike Foss. Thanks so much for coming on and giving us this great insight into everything that they're going through this week and what they have to look forward to a little bit later. >> It's exciting times, so I'm really excited for them. It's a long training road and a, you know, I wish I was there. It's a good time and I can't wait to watch it. >> Yep, well we'll be following on. Hopefully we see you up there again sometimes soon. >> [Laughter] Hold that thought, well see.


NASA ranks and positions


Members of the NASA Astronaut Corps hold one of two ranks. Astronaut Candidate is the rank of those training to be NASA astronauts.

Upon graduation, candidates are promoted to Astronaut and receive their Astronaut Pin. The pin is issued in two grades, silver and gold, with the silver pin awarded to candidates who have successfully completed astronaut training and the gold pin to astronauts who have flown in space.

Chief of the Astronaut Office is a position, not a rank.


Position Duties Examples Comments
Pilot Overall mission success Mercury Seven As a single-seat spacecraft, the astronauts who flew the Mercury missions were referred to simply as "Pilots". Mercury Pilots were required to have experience as a pilot of high-performance jet aircraft and to be no more than 5 feet 11 inches (180 cm) tall and weigh no more than 180 pounds (82 kg).
Command Pilot Overall mission success, safety of crew and spacecraft James McDivitt McDivitt was the first rookie Command Pilot.
Pilot Serves as systems engineer, copilot, and would perform any other mission objectives such as EVA's during the Gemini program. Ed White White was the first American who made an EVA (extravehicular activity).
Commander Overall mission success, safety of crew and spacecraft, pilot in command of spacecraft during launch, trans-lunar coast, and earth return coast. Also pilot in command of the Lunar Module. The commander would make the actual descent and landing of LM on the lunar surface, as well as the lunar ascent back to the orbiting CSM. Neil Armstrong, first man on the Moon

Backup Commander: Jim Lovell commander of Apollo 13

Command Module Pilot Responsible for knowing the CSM and their systems fully. Serve as flight engineer during launch phase while commander would be in full control of the vehicle. Perform navigation and mid-course correction procedures during trans-lunar and trans-earth phases of flight, command pilot of CSM during lunar orbit phase (when the mission commander is in control of the lunar module from separation phase until the LM docked back with CSM in lunar orbit). The CM pilot would also have other objectives during lunar orbit phase such as lunar photography, research and study for future landing sites for subsequent Apollo missions, deploy lunar satellite in some cases, as well as being responsible for relaying messages from mission control if radio contact with the LM was lost or weak, and also responsible for performing an orbital rescue with the LM if it were to malfunction and not be able to perform as needed to rendezvous with CSM as planned for in normal cases, but this never was needed. However, the CM pilot was responsible for docking the two ships together when the LM returned to orbit after being on the surface. Michael Collins,
Backup CMP: William Anders
Lunar Module Pilot Flight engineer of Apollo Lunar Module during descent and ascent of the LM also responsible for its systems during all phases of flight between earth and moon. The LMP would callout key information to the commander during the most critical descent and landing phases when all of the commander's attention would be focused out the window and on visually flying the LM to a suitable landing spot on the surface. He would also control the navigation computer and other subsystems of the craft while the commander had hands on the controls to fly the ship down manually the last portion of the descent when manual control was taken over from the computer. Buzz Aldrin, second man on the moon
Backup LMP: Fred Haise
Aldrin was the first "Doctor of Philosophy" (technically, "Doctor of Science (Sc.D.)") in Space
Docking Module Pilot Deke Slayton, Mercury 7 astronaut Position only used once during Apollo-Soyuz joint mission
Commander Overall mission success, safety of crew and spacecraft Pete Conrad, first Skylab commander
Pilot Paul J. Weitz
Science Pilot Joseph P. Kerwin, first American physician in space
Space Shuttle
Commander Overall mission success, safety of crew and Shuttle, maneuvers Shuttle with assistance from Pilot. John Young, commander of the first shuttle mission All Shuttle commanders have prior spaceflight experience.[1] Requires a degree in engineering, biological science, physical science, or mathematics. Must have at least 1000 hours flying experience on a jet aircraft,[2] and at least 750 simulated landings in the Shuttle Training Aircraft.[3] Must pass a NASA Class I space physical to be certified for flight.[4]
Pilot Assist the Commander in maneuvering the Shuttle. May be responsible for release and recovery of satellites. Robert Crippen, flew the first shuttle mission as pilot Same education and flight experience requirements as a Commander,[2] but does not need prior spaceflight experience.
Payload Commander (PLC) A Mission Specialist with additional responsibility for the management of the science or other major payload elements of the mission.[5] Story Musgrave, Michael P. Anderson Payload Commanders are always NASA astronauts.
Mission Specialist (MS) A NASA astronaut assigned to a Shuttle crew with mission-specific duties. Jerry L. Ross and Franklin Chang-Diaz each flew seven times as Shuttle Mission Specialists. Must pass a NASA Class II space physical to be certified for flight.[4]
Flight Engineer A Mission Specialist with additional responsibility of assisting the Pilot and Commander. The FE also keeps track of information from CAPCOM and calls out milestones. Story Musgrave, Michael P. Anderson The FE is always Mission Specialist 2 and sits in the S4 seat on the Shuttle flight deck.
International Mission Specialist Same as Mission Specialist but may have payload-specific duties assigned by home agency. Hans Schlegel
Educator Mission Specialist Same as Mission Specialist but with additional education-related duties. Joseph M. Acaba, first Puerto Rican astronaut Position created in 2004 as part of the Educator Astronaut Project.
Payload Specialist Technical experts who accompany specific payloads such as a commercial or scientific satellites. Payload Specialists are non-NASA personnel. The term is also applied to representatives from partner nations such as Saudi Arabia and Mexico who were given the opportunity to fly on the Space Shuttle.
USAF Manned Spaceflight Engineer Same as Payload Specialist, but are military personnel who accompany military payloads. Gary Payton Payton and William A. Pailes were the only Manned Spaceflight Engineers to fly before the program's termination in 1988.
Spaceflight Participant People who travel aboard space missions coordinated by those agencies who are not part of the crew. Christa McAuliffe, Teacher in Space, Space Shuttle Challenger disaster This term serves to distinguish tourists and other special travelers from the career astronauts.

Russian Federal Space Agency ranks and positions


Russian astronauts are called cosmonauts. After initial training, cosmonauts are assigned as either a test-cosmonaut (космонавт-испытатель, kosmonavt-ispytatel’) or a research-cosmonaut (космонавт-исследователь, kosmonavt-issledovatel’). A test-cosmonaut has a more difficult preparation than a research-cosmonaut and can be the commander or the flight engineer of a spacecraft, while a research-cosmonaut cannot.[6]

Higher ranks include pilot-cosmonaut, test-cosmonaut instructor, and research-cosmonaut instructor.[6]

Pilot-Cosmonaut of the Russian Federation is a title that is presented to all cosmonauts who fly for the Russian space program.


Position Duties Examples Comments
Pilot Cosmonaut Overall mission success Yuri Gagarin, first man in space As a single-seat spacecraft, the cosmonaut who flew the Vostok missions were referred to simply as "Pilot Cosmonauts".
Commander Overall mission success, safety of crew and spacecraft Vladimir Komarov, commanded the first multi-person flight
Second Pilot Alexey Leonov, the first spacewalker in history
Scientist Cosmonaut Konstantin Feoktistov, the first engineer in space
Doctor Cosmonaut Boris Yegorov, first doctor in space
Commander Overall mission success, safety of crew and spacecraft Vladimir Dzhanibekov, commander of missions to Salyut 6 and Salyut 7 space stations
Flight Engineer Svetlana Savitskaya, first female spacewalker
Spaceflight Participant No official duties Term used for Soyuz passengers who are not part of the crew, and serves to distinguish tourists and other special travelers from the career astronauts.

International Space Station positions

Position Duties Examples Comments
Commander Overall mission success, safety of crew and Station. Peggy Whitson, first female commander
Flight Engineer Overall mission success, science Thomas Pesquet, first French astronaut part of an ISS expedition
Science Officer Primary responsibility for station's science experiments. A secondary position for an ISS Flight Engineer. Peggy Whitson, first science officer Position established in 2002 by NASA to reinforce science aspect of ISS.
Spaceflight Participant No formal duties. Anousheh Ansari, first female space tourist Term used for ISS visitors who are not part of the crew, and serves to distinguish tourists and other special travelers from the career astronauts.

See also


  1. ^ Joe Engle flew on STS-2 without prior NASA spaceflight experience, but had flown the X-15 into space and had participated in the Shuttle Approach and Landing Tests.
  2. ^ a b "Astronauts | Career | Education | Pilot | Commander | Mission Specialist | NASA | Space Shuttle | Flight - Page 1". Retrieved 2012-06-09.
  3. ^ Bolden, Charles F. (2004-01-06). "Charles F. Bolden". NASA Johnson Space Center Oral History Project (Interview). Interviewed by Johnson, Sandra; Wright, Rebecca; Ross-Nazzal, Jennifer. Houston, Texas. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  4. ^ a b "Astronauts | Career | Education | Pilot | Commander | Mission Specialist | NASA | Space Shuttle | Flight - Page 2". 2008-10-07. Retrieved 2012-06-09.
  5. ^ "NASA - Space Shuttle Columbia and Her Crew". 2006-03-05. Retrieved 2012-06-09.
  6. ^ a b McHale, Suzy. "RuSpace - Suzy's Russian space site". Retrieved 2012-06-09.

External links

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