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NASA Astronaut Bruce McCandless II using a Manned Maneuvering Unit outside Space Shuttle Challenger on shuttle mission STS-41-B in 1984.
NASA Astronaut Bruce McCandless II using a Manned Maneuvering Unit outside Space Shuttle Challenger on shuttle mission STS-41-B in 1984.

An astronaut or cosmonaut is a person trained by a human spaceflight program to command, pilot, or serve as a crew member of a spacecraft. Although generally reserved for professional space travelers, the terms are sometimes applied to anyone who travels into space, including scientists, politicians, journalists and tourists.[1][2]

Until 2002, astronauts were sponsored and trained exclusively by governments, either by the military or by civilian space agencies. With the suborbital flight of the privately funded SpaceShipOne in 2004, a new category of astronaut was created: the commercial astronaut.

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  • ✪ Why You Could Never Be An Astronaut
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  • ✪ What Would Happen If An Astronaut Became Stranded On The Moon?


This video was made possible by WIX. If you’re ready to create a website, head over to to try out one of their premium plans right now. In the 1950’s, NASA leadership was in the midst of a debate. They were trying to decide what name was best to call the crew of their spacecraft. The word astronaut comes from the Greek words Astron and nautes which mean sailor among the stars. Whereas, cosmonaut with the word cosmos suggests exploration not of the stars, but of space. As it made more sense, the Soviet Union called Yuri Gagarin, the man who won them the Space Race, a cosmonaut. However, NASA, to this day, prefers astronaut. Whatever the title, the challenges they face are the same. Could you handle them? Let’s find out in this episode of The Infographics Show, Do You Have What it Takes to Become an Astronaut? Astronauts are trained around the world in many different locations. These include the United States, Europe, Russia, and Asia. However, unlike other careers, they do not always accept new recruits. In the United States, NASA makes announcements that applicants are wanted on an as needed basis. The European Space Agency hasn’t been open to astronaut selection since 1992 and, even then, applications were accepted for just months. On the rare occasion that a position opens up, the competition is quite intense. Over the years, NASA has had an upwards trend in interest. It set an all-time record in 2016 with over 18,000 people submitting applications. Only 120 people are invited to an interview and, of these, just half are welcomed back. For those in Europe, the chances of becoming selected for training are also very slim. During the last recruitment in 2009, only six were picked out of 8,413. When new astronauts are needed, candidates must have vast knowledge and experience to meet, and preferably exceed, training program admittance guidelines. No matter where they are, those who apply must be exceptionally strong in several key areas. These typically include a high-level education, flying experience, and proof of physical and mental ability. As an example, to qualify to train with NASA, candidates must first complete an undergraduate program and earn their bachelor’s degree. And not just any major will be accepted. While there are no schools or university tracks specific to the field, there are other ways to learn applicable skills. You will need to focus your studies in engineering, mathematics, or the physical, biological, or computer sciences. In addition to this, candidates must also have three years or more of related experience or 1,000 hours of time commanding a jet aircraft. The third and last NASA requirement is passing a physical examination, which has many different parts. Among other things, there are blood pressure limitations as well as specifications for just how tall or short you can be. That’s right, if you’re not the right size, you may be disqualified as you won’t fit inside of a spacesuit. In addition to this, for obvious reasons, you will need to be able to see well with 20/20 vision in each eye, either naturally, with surgery, or with lenses. Similar to NASA, the European Space Agency requires a high standard of education in a technical or scientific discipline. While not essential, aircraft experience is also highly recommended. Physical condition is taken into consideration, and they list additional mental abilities that prospective astronauts must have to succeed. These include the ability to cope with high-stress situations, get along with others, and, in general, be adaptable. Why are these necessary? Well, spaceflights may last for months. Those in the spacecraft will be crammed all together with the same people each and every day. Getting along will be imperative to successfully tackle unforeseen situations as they come. It will also be necessary to work well as a team and to complete a given mission. In addition to all this, the Russian research and test cosmonaut training center claims that the concepts of motivation and trainability are also key for new recruits. With the amount of training they will be required to complete, candidates must be willing to stick it through and work hard to master new things. So, say you have the education, experience, and physical and mental ability to get accepted to an astronaut training program. This is when the challenge really begins. Training will be neither quick or easy and requires years of dedication. During this time trainees will learn what to expect before, during, and after they launch into space. Just the act of taking off and landing can be quite brutal and incapacitate people for days. In fact, some 60% to 80% of those who travel to space experience space motion sickness for the first 2 or 3 days after leaving and may experience it again for another 2 or 3 days once they return. This may either be caused by shifts in fluid surrounding the brain or because of the effects of gravity on the inner ear. Whatever the cause, it makes those who have it feel overly hot, sick to their stomach, and exhausted. Those who do throw up often have little warning but it typically doesn’t last very long. Almost a whole crew getting motion sickness is so common that on most space missions activities are limited for the first few days. The use of proper training as well as medications have been somewhat successful at preventing this level of sickness. However, medications must be used with caution as they can also cause drowsiness or impair concentration. For those on a spaceship this could be a lethal combination. Another effect of spending time in space is experiencing irregularities in the flow of blood. Sometimes, after a mission is over, blood pressure may start to drop as a person tries to stand. This will make them feel dizzy and they may even pass out. This is common for a few days and should resolve by itself. It is also worth noting that prolonged time in space can cause other problems as well. In the space environment, the heart’s shape becomes rounder and some of its muscle mass is lost. Scientists hope to discover an exercise routine that could help keep hearts strong to counteract this. Of course, in addition to what happens at takeoff and landing, astronauts must also know what to do as they orbit in space. For this purpose, they will be taught the concepts behind orbits and astronomy. Astronauts are also given access to a realistic spacecraft model so they can learn how its different components function. They will learn things such as how the rocket engine propels the craft and how insulation regulates equipment temperature. And of course, very critically, about how the systems work that provide them with the basic necessities such as food, water, and air. More than knowing how all of these work, an astronaut must also be able to respond effectively to their failure. Further, he or she must know how to protect them during a disaster as well. Of course, astronauts must also prepare for their part of the spaceflight’s mission. This often requires such things as learning how to navigate through space successfully while wearing a spacesuit. To simulate this here on earth, astronauts put on their equipment and submerge themselves in water. They then walk around and perform various tasks while entirely underwater. Other useful skills astronauts should know for a mission include learning how to pilot the ship and accurately determine its position. To do this, they must also know how to identify potentially confusing optical illusions. In addition to understanding the internal workings of a spaceship and how to perform their jobs, astronauts must also prepare themselves for the psychological challenges of the space environment. As many who have been to space have said, dealing with the combination of constant danger, loneliness, and limitations was the most challenging thing they ever did. In space, danger never ends and may always be near. Experts have described that by living in a situation surrounded by danger, it makes one hyper-aware of it. There is also something comforting about feeling attached to the ground that is absent when drifting in space. Over time the sensation of floating, while exciting at first, may become much less fun. If nothing else, it can be frustrating and make some of the simplest tasks a challenge. An astronaut’s sense of balance may be thrown off by the distortion of time as well. Instead of happening once every day, in space, sunset and sunrise switch back and forth every 45 minutes. On long shifts over lengthy missions, one may lose complete sense of how much time has passed or what time it even is. However, the most profound sense of loss many astronauts have felt is the missing connection to their normal life. This was expressed by astronauts even after weekly interactions with their families and friends which not every astronaut has. Another thing that some have considered one of the very worst feeling was when they were sitting around with nothing to do and without any type of distraction. Then to this sense of uselessness or boredom you must add a stifling lack of freedom. The good news is that astronauts are well prepared for these types of situations. They know what to expect through practice and have developed different coping mechanisms. To show they can handle being by themselves astronauts have been kept in isolation chambers for weeks. They have also been locked up with others for over a month to learn about compromise and limited freedoms. We have all seen the videos of astronauts laughing and doing flips as they float around freely on their ship. But now we’ve learned that the magical feeling of weightlessness can become much less fun. Many people want to become an astronaut, and thousands upon thousands go so far as to apply. However, the job is not an easy one and requires a lot of grit and sacrifice. Not everyone has what it takes to be an astronaut, but thanks to Wix, anybody can have a great looking website in minutes. Wix lets you create a personal site by using any one of the hundreds of their fully customizable templates, all with an easy to use drag and drop interface. But if you’re in a rush or maybe just feel like you’re in over your head, Wix’s powerful ADI feature will create a fantastic and unique site for you in moments just by answering a few simple questions. You don’t have to postpone your dreams of an amazing looking site anymore, try out wix today by visiting the link in the description or going to Did you want to become an astronaut, and have you changed your mind? Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video called Most Extreme Planets In The Galaxy Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!



Alan Shepard aboard Freedom 7 (1961)

The criteria for what constitutes human spaceflight vary, with some focus on the point where the atmosphere becomes so thin that centrifugal force, rather than aerodynamic force, carries a significant portion of the weight of the flight object. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) Sporting Code for astronautics recognizes only flights that exceed the Kármán line, at an altitude of 100 kilometers (62 mi).[3] In the United States, professional, military, and commercial astronauts who travel above an altitude of 50 miles (80 km)[4] are awarded astronaut wings.

As of 17 November 2016, a total of 552 people from 36 countries have reached 100 km (62 mi) or more in altitude, of which 549 reached low Earth orbit or beyond.[5] Of these, 24 people have traveled beyond low Earth orbit, either to lunar orbit, the lunar surface, or, in one case, a loop around the Moon.[6] Three of the 24—Jim Lovell, John Young and Eugene Cernan—did so twice.[7]

As of 17 November 2016, under the U.S. definition, 558 people qualify as having reached space, above 50 miles (80 km) altitude. Of eight X-15 pilots who exceeded 50 miles (80 km) in altitude, only one exceeded 100 kilometers (about 62 miles).[5] Space travelers have spent over 41,790 man-days (114.5-man-years) in space, including over 100 astronaut-days of spacewalks.[8][9] As of 2016, the man with the longest cumulative time in space is Gennady Padalka, who has spent 879 days in space.[10] Peggy A. Whitson holds the record for the most time in space by a woman, 377 days.[11]


In 1959, when both the United States and Soviet Union were planning, but had yet to launch humans into space, NASA Administrator T. Keith Glennan and his Deputy Administrator, Dr. Hugh Dryden, discussed whether spacecraft crew members should be called astronauts or cosmonauts. Dryden preferred "cosmonaut", on the grounds that flights would occur in the cosmos (near space), while the "astro" prefix suggested flight to the stars. Most NASA Space Task Group members preferred "astronaut", which survived by common usage as the preferred American term.[12] When the Soviet Union launched the first man into space, Yuri Gagarin in 1961, they chose a term which anglicizes to "cosmonaut".


In English-speaking nations, a professional space traveler is called an astronaut.[13] The term derives from the Greek words ástron (ἄστρον), meaning "star", and nautes (ναύτης), meaning "sailor". The first known use of the term "astronaut" in the modern sense was by Neil R. Jones in his 1930 short story "The Death's Head Meteor". The word itself had been known earlier; for example, in Percy Greg's 1880 book Across the Zodiac, "astronaut" referred to a spacecraft. In Les Navigateurs de l'Infini (1925) by J.-H. Rosny aîné, the word astronautique (astronautic) was used. The word may have been inspired by "aeronaut", an older term for an air traveler first applied in 1784 to balloonists. An early use of "astronaut" in a non-fiction publication is Eric Frank Russell's poem "The Astronaut", appearing in the November 1934 Bulletin of the British Interplanetary Society.[14]

The first known formal use of the term astronautics in the scientific community was the establishment of the annual International Astronautical Congress in 1950, and the subsequent founding of the International Astronautical Federation the following year.[15]

NASA applies the term astronaut to any crew member aboard NASA spacecraft bound for Earth orbit or beyond. NASA also uses the term as a title for those selected to join its Astronaut Corps.[16] The European Space Agency similarly uses the term astronaut for members of its Astronaut Corps.[17]


By convention, an astronaut employed by the Russian Federal Space Agency (or its Soviet predecessor) is called a cosmonaut in English texts.[16] The word is an anglicisation of the Russian word kosmonavt (Russian: космонавт, Russian pronunciation: [kəsmɐˈnaft]), one who works in space outside the Earth's atmosphere, a space traveler,[18] which derives from the Greek words kosmos (κόσμος), meaning "universe", and nautes (ναύτης), meaning "sailor". Other countries of the former Eastern Bloc use variations of the Russian word kosmonavt, such as the Polish kosmonauta (although Polish also uses astronauta, and the two words are considered synonyms[19]).

Coinage of the term kosmonavt has been credited to Soviet aeronautics pioneer Mikhail Tikhonravov (1900–1974).[20][21] The first cosmonaut was Soviet Air Force pilot Yuri Gagarin, also the first person in space. He was part of the first six Russians, with German Titov, Yevgeny Khrunov, Andriyan Nikolayev, Pavel Popovich, and Grigoriy Nelyubov, who were given the title of pilot-cosmonaut in January 1961.[22] Valentina Tereshkova was the first female cosmonaut and the first woman in space.[23] On March 14, 1995,[24] Norman Thagard became the first American to ride to space on board a Russian launch vehicle, and thus became the first "American cosmonaut".[citation needed]


Yǔ háng yuán (宇航员, "Space-universe navigating personnel") is used for astronauts and cosmonauts in general,[25][26] while hángtiān yuán (航天员, "navigating outer space personnel") is used for Chinese astronauts. Here, hángtiān (航天) is strictly defined as the navigation of outer space within the local star system, i.e. solar system. The phrase tài kōng rén (太空人, "spaceman") is often used in Hong Kong and Taiwan.[27]

The term taikonaut is used by some English-language news media organizations for professional space travelers from China.[28] The word has featured in the Longman and Oxford English dictionaries, the latter of which describes it as a hybrid of the Chinese term Chinese: 太空 (tàikōng, 'space') and the Greek ναύτης (naútēs, 'sailor'); the term became more common in 2003 when China sent its first astronaut Yang Liwei into space aboard the Shenzhou 5 spacecraft.[29] This is the term used by Xinhua News Agency in the English version of the Chinese People's Daily since the advent of the Chinese space program.[30] The origin of the term is unclear; as early as May 1998, Chiew Lee Yih (趙裡昱) from Malaysia, used it in newsgroups.[31][32]

Other terms

With the rise of space tourism, NASA and the Russian Federal Space Agency agreed to use the term "spaceflight participant" to distinguish those space travelers from professional astronauts on missions coordinated by those two agencies.

While no nation other than Russia (and previously the Soviet Union), the United States, and China have launched a manned spacecraft, several other nations have sent people into space in cooperation with one of these countries, i.e. the Soviet-led Interkosmos programme. Inspired partly by these missions, other synonyms for astronaut have entered occasional English usage. For example, the term spationaut (French spelling: spationaute) is sometimes used to describe French space travelers, from the Latin word spatium for "space", the Malay term angkasawan was used to describe participants in the Angkasawan program, and the Indian Space Research Organisation hope to launch a spacecraft in 2022 that would carry vyomanauts, coined from the Sanskrit word व्योमन् (vyoman meaning 'sky' or 'space'). In Finland, the NASA astronaut Timothy Kopra, a Finnish American, has sometimes been referred to as sisunautti, from the Finnish word sisu.[33]

As of 2019 in the United States, astronaut status is conferred on a person depending on the authorizing agency:

  • one who flies in a vehicle above 50 statute miles for NASA or the military is considered an astronaut (with no qualifier)
  • one who flies in a vehicle to the International Space Station in a mission coordinated by NASA and Roscosmos is a spaceflight participant
  • one who flies above 50 miles in a non-NASA vehicle as a crewmember is considered a commercial astronaut by the Federal Aviation Administration[34]
  • one who flies aboard a private (non-NASA) space vehicle to the International Space Station is considered a private astronaut by NASA[35] (as of 2019, nobody has yet qualified for this status)
  • a generally-accepted but unofficial term for a paying non-crew passenger who flies a private non-NASA vehicle above 50 statute miles is a space tourist (as of 2019, nobody has yet qualified for this status)

Space travel milestones

Yuri Gagarin, first human in space (1961)
Yuri Gagarin, first human in space (1961)
Valentina Tereshkova, first woman in space (1963)
Valentina Tereshkova, first woman in space (1963)
Neil Armstrong, first human to walk on the Moon (1969)
Neil Armstrong, first human to walk on the Moon (1969)
Vladimír Remek, a Czechoslovakian who became the first non-American and non-Soviet cosmonaut in space (1978)
Vladimír Remek, a Czechoslovakian who became the first non-American and non-Soviet cosmonaut in space (1978)
Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut (1980s)
Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut (1980s)
Yang Liwei, first person sent into space by China (2003)
Yang Liwei, first person sent into space by China (2003)

The first human in space was Soviet Yuri Gagarin, who was launched on April 12, 1961, aboard Vostok 1 and orbited around the Earth for 108 minutes. The first woman in space was Soviet Valentina Tereshkova, who launched on June 16, 1963, aboard Vostok 6 and orbited Earth for almost three days.

Alan Shepard became the first American and second person in space on May 5, 1961, on a 15-minute sub-orbital flight. The first American to orbit the Earth was John Glenn, aboard Friendship 7 on February 20, 1962. The first American woman in space was Sally Ride, during Space Shuttle Challenger's mission STS-7, on June 18, 1983.[36] In 1992 Mae Jemison became the first African American woman to travel in space aboard STS-47.

Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov was the first person to conduct an extravehicular activity (EVA), (commonly called a "spacewalk"), on March 18, 1965, on the Soviet Union's Voskhod 2 mission. This was followed two and a half months later by astronaut Ed White who made the first American EVA on NASA's Gemini 4 mission.[37]

The first manned mission to orbit the Moon, Apollo 8, included American William Anders who was born in Hong Kong, making him the first Asian-born astronaut in 1968.

The Soviet Union, through its Intercosmos program, allowed people from other "socialist" (i.e. Warsaw Pact and other Soviet-allied) countries to fly on its missions, with the notable exception of France participating in Soyuz TM-7. An example is Czechoslovak Vladimír Remek, the first cosmonaut from a country other than the Soviet Union or the United States, who flew to space in 1978 on a Soyuz-U rocket.[38] Rakesh Sharma became the first Indian citizen to travel to space. He was launched aboard Soyuz T-11, on April 2, 1984.

On July 23, 1980, Pham Tuan of Vietnam became the first Asian in space when he flew aboard Soyuz 37.[39] Also in 1980, Cuban Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez became the first person of Hispanic and black African descent to fly in space, and in 1983, Guion Bluford became the first African American to fly into space. In April 1985, Taylor Wang became the first ethnic Chinese person in space.[40][41] The first person born in Africa to fly in space was Patrick Baudry (France), in 1985.[42][43] In 1985, Saudi Arabian Prince Sultan Bin Salman Bin AbdulAziz Al-Saud became the first Arab Muslim astronaut in space.[44] In 1988, Abdul Ahad Mohmand became the first Afghan to reach space, spending nine days aboard the Mir space station.[45]

With the increase of seats on the Space Shuttle, the U.S. began taking international astronauts. In 1983, Ulf Merbold of West Germany became the first non-US citizen to fly in a US spacecraft. In 1984, Marc Garneau became the first of 8 Canadian astronauts to fly in space (through 2010).[46] In 1985, Rodolfo Neri Vela became the first Mexican-born person in space.[47] In 1991, Helen Sharman became the first Briton to fly in space.[48] In 2002, Mark Shuttleworth became the first citizen of an African country to fly in space, as a paying spaceflight participant.[49] In 2003, Ilan Ramon became the first Israeli to fly in space, although he died during a re-entry accident.

On October 15, 2003, Yang Liwei became China's first astronaut on the Shenzhou 5 spacecraft.

Age milestones

The youngest person to fly in space is Gherman Titov, who was 25 years old when he flew Vostok 2. (Titov was also the first person to suffer space sickness).[50][51] The oldest person who has flown in space is John Glenn, who was 77 when he flew on STS-95.[52]

Duration and distance milestones

438 days is the longest time spent in space, by Russian Valeri Polyakov.[8] As of 2006, the most spaceflights by an individual astronaut is seven, a record held by both Jerry L. Ross and Franklin Chang-Diaz. The farthest distance from Earth an astronaut has traveled was 401,056 km (249,205 mi), when Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise went around the Moon during the Apollo 13 emergency.[8]

Civilian and non-government milestones

The first civilian in space was Valentina Tereshkova[53] aboard Vostok 6 (she also became the first woman in space on that mission). Tereshkova was only honorarily inducted into the USSR's Air Force, which did not accept female pilots at that time. A month later, Joseph Albert Walker became the first American civilian in space when his X-15 Flight 90 crossed the 100 kilometers (54 nautical miles) line, qualifying him by the international definition of spaceflight.[54][55] Walker had joined the US Army Air Force but was not a member during his flight. The first people in space who had never been a member of any country's armed forces were both Konstantin Feoktistov and Boris Yegorov aboard Voskhod 1.

The first non-governmental space traveler was Byron K. Lichtenberg, a researcher from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who flew on STS-9 in 1983.[56] In December 1990, Toyohiro Akiyama became the first paying space traveler as a reporter for Tokyo Broadcasting System, a visit to Mir as part of an estimated $12 million (USD) deal with a Japanese TV station, although at the time, the term used to refer to Akiyama was "Research Cosmonaut".[57][58][59] Akiyama suffered severe space sickness during his mission, which affected his productivity.[58]

The first self-funded space tourist was Dennis Tito on board the Russian spacecraft Soyuz TM-3 on April 28, 2001.

Self-funded travelers

The first person to fly on an entirely privately funded mission was Mike Melvill, piloting SpaceShipOne flight 15P on a suborbital journey, although he was a test pilot employed by Scaled Composites and not an actual paying space tourist.[60][61] Seven others have paid the Russian Space Agency to fly into space:

  1. Dennis Tito (American): April 28 – May 6, 2001 (ISS)
  2. Mark Shuttleworth (South African): April 25 – May 5, 2002 (ISS)
  3. Gregory Olsen (American): October 1–11, 2005 (ISS)
  4. Anousheh Ansari (Iranian / American): September 18–29, 2006 (ISS)
  5. Charles Simonyi (Hungarian / American): April 7–21, 2007 (ISS), March 26 – April 8, 2009 (ISS)
  6. Richard Garriott (British / American): October 12–24, 2008 (ISS)
  7. Guy Laliberté (Canadian): September 30, 2009 – October 11, 2009 (ISS)


Elliot See during water egress training with NASA (1965)
Elliot See during water egress training with NASA (1965)

The first NASA astronauts were selected for training in 1959.[62] Early in the space program, military jet test piloting and engineering training were often cited as prerequisites for selection as an astronaut at NASA, although neither John Glenn nor Scott Carpenter (of the Mercury Seven) had any university degree, in engineering or any other discipline at the time of their selection. Selection was initially limited to military pilots.[63][64] The earliest astronauts for both America and the USSR tended to be jet fighter pilots, and were often test pilots.

Once selected, NASA astronauts go through twenty months of training in a variety of areas, including training for extravehicular activity in a facility such as NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory.[1][63] Astronauts-in-training (astronaut candidates) may also experience short periods of weightlessness (microgravity) in an aircraft called the "Vomit Comet," the nickname given to a pair of modified KC-135s (retired in 2000 and 2004, respectively, and replaced in 2005 with a C-9) which perform parabolic flights.[62] Astronauts are also required to accumulate a number of flight hours in high-performance jet aircraft. This is mostly done in T-38 jet aircraft out of Ellington Field, due to its proximity to the Johnson Space Center. Ellington Field is also where the Shuttle Training Aircraft is maintained and developed, although most flights of the aircraft are conducted from Edwards Air Force Base.

Astronauts in training must learn how to control and fly the Space Shuttle and, it is vital that they are familiar with the International Space Station so they know what they must do when they get there.[65]

NASA candidacy requirements

  • Be citizens of the United States.[62][66]
  • Pass a strict physical examination, and have a near and distant visual acuity correctable to 20/20 (6/6). Blood pressure, while sitting, must be no greater than 140 over 90. There are currently no age restrictions.[67]

Commander and Pilot

  • A bachelor's degree in engineering, biological science, physical science or mathematics is required.
  • At least 1,000 hours' flying time as pilot-in-command in jet aircraft. Experience as a test pilot is desirable.
  • Height must be 5 ft 2 in to 6 ft 2 in (1.58 m to 1.88 m).
  • Distant visual acuity must be correctable to 20/20 in each eye.
  • The refractive surgical procedures of the eye, PRK (Photorefractive keratectomy) and LASIK, are now allowed, providing at least 1 year has passed since the date of the procedure with no permanent adverse after effects. For those applicants under final consideration, an operative report on the surgical procedure will be requested.

Mission Specialist

Mission Specialist Mae Jemison, a physician and chemical engineer, served on the Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-47)
Mission Specialist Mae Jemison, a physician and chemical engineer, served on the Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-47)
  • A bachelor's degree in engineering, biological science, physical science or mathematics, as well as at least three years of related professional experience (graduate work or studies) and an advanced degree, such as a master's degree (one to three years) or a doctoral degree (three years or more).
  • Applicant's height must be between 4 ft 10.5 in and 6 ft 4 in (1.49 m and 1.93 m).

Mission Specialist Educator

  • Applicants must have a bachelor's degree with teaching experience, including work at the kindergarten through twelfth grade level. An advanced degree, such as a master's degree or a doctoral degree, is not required, but is strongly desired.[68]

Mission Specialist Educators, or "Educator Astronauts", were first selected in 2004, and as of 2007, there are three NASA Educator astronauts: Joseph M. Acaba, Richard R. Arnold, and Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger.[69][70] Barbara Morgan, selected as back-up teacher to Christa McAuliffe in 1985, is considered to be the first Educator astronaut by the media, but she trained as a mission specialist.[71] The Educator Astronaut program is a successor to the Teacher in Space program from the 1980s.[72][73]

Health risks of space travel

Gennady Padalka performing ultrasound on Michael Fincke during ISS Expedition 9.
Gennady Padalka performing ultrasound on Michael Fincke during ISS Expedition 9.

Astronauts are susceptible to a variety of health risks including decompression sickness, barotrauma, immunodeficiencies, loss of bone and muscle, loss of eyesight, orthostatic intolerance, sleep disturbances, and radiation injury.[74][75][76][77][78][79][80][81][82][83] A variety of large scale medical studies are being conducted in space via the National Space and Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) to address these issues. Prominent among these is the Advanced Diagnostic Ultrasound in Microgravity Study in which astronauts (including former ISS commanders Leroy Chiao and Gennady Padalka) perform ultrasound scans under the guidance of remote experts to diagnose and potentially treat hundreds of medical conditions in space. This study's techniques are now being applied to cover professional and Olympic sports injuries as well as ultrasound performed by non-expert operators in medical and high school students. It is anticipated that remote guided ultrasound will have application on Earth in emergency and rural care situations, where access to a trained physician is often rare.[84][85][86]

A 2006 Space Shuttle experiment found that Salmonella typhimurium, a bacterium that can cause food poisoning, became more virulent when cultivated in space.[87] More recently, in 2017, bacteria were found to be more resistant to antibiotics and to thrive in the near-weightlessness of space.[88] Microorganisms have been observed to survive the vacuum of outer space.[89][90]

On December 31, 2012, a NASA-supported study reported that manned spaceflight may harm the brain and accelerate the onset of Alzheimer's disease.[91][92][93]

In October 2015, the NASA Office of Inspector General issued a health hazards report related to space exploration, including a human mission to Mars.[94][95]

Over the last decade, flight surgeons and scientists at NASA have seen a pattern of vision problems in astronauts on long-duration space missions. The syndrome, known as visual impairment intracranial pressure (VIIP), has been reported in nearly two-thirds of space explorers after long periods spent aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

On November 2, 2017, scientists reported that significant changes in the position and structure of the brain have been found in astronauts who have taken trips in space, based on MRI studies. Astronauts who took longer space trips were associated with greater brain changes.[96][97]

Being in space can be physiologically deconditioning on the body. It can affect the otolith organs and adaptive capabilities of the central nervous system. Zero gravity and cosmic rays can cause many implications for astronauts.[98]

In October 2018, NASA-funded researchers found that lengthy journeys into outer space, including travel to the planet Mars, may substantially damage the gastrointestinal tissues of astronauts. The studies support earlier work that found such journeys could significantly damage the brains of astronauts, and age them prematurely.[99]

Researchers in 2018 reported, after detecting the presence on the International Space Station (ISS) of five Enterobacter bugandensis bacterial strains, none pathogenic to humans, that microorganisms on ISS should be carefully monitored to continue assuring a medically healthy environment for astronauts.[100][101]

A recent study by Russian scientists published in April 2019 stated that astronauts facing space radiation could face temporary hindrance of their memory centres. While this doesn't affect their intellectual capabilities, it temporarily hinders formation of new cells in brain's memory centres. The study conducted by Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) concluded this after they observed that mice exposed to neutron and gamma radiation didn't impact the rodents' intellectual capabilities.[102]

Astronauts making and eating hamburgers on board the ISS, August 2007.
Astronauts making and eating hamburgers on board the ISS, August 2007.

Food and drink

An astronaut on the International Space Station requires about 0.83 kilograms (1.83 pounds) weight of food inclusive of food packaging per meal each day. (The packaging for each meal weighs around 0.12 kilograms – 0.27 pounds) Longer-duration missions require more food.

Shuttle astronauts worked with nutritionists to select menus that appeal to their individual tastes. Five months before flight, menus are selected and analyzed for nutritional content by the shuttle dietician. Foods are tested to see how they will react in a reduced gravity environment. Caloric requirements are determined using a basal energy expenditure (BEE) formula. On Earth, the average American uses about 35 gallons (132 liters) of water every day. On board the ISS astronauts limit water use to only about three gallons (11 liters) per day.[103]

NASA Astronaut lapel pin
NASA Astronaut lapel pin


In Russia, cosmonauts are awarded Pilot-Cosmonaut of the Russian Federation upon completion of their missions, often accompanied with the award of Hero of the Russian Federation. This follows the practice established in the USSR where cosmonauts were usually awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union.

At NASA, those who complete astronaut candidate training receive a silver lapel pin. Once they have flown in space, they receive a gold pin. U.S. astronauts who also have active-duty military status receive a special qualification badge, known as the Astronaut Badge, after participation on a spaceflight. The United States Air Force also presents an Astronaut Badge to its pilots who exceed 50 miles (80 km) in altitude.

Space Mirror Memorial
Space Mirror Memorial


Eighteen astronauts (fourteen men and four women) have lost their lives during four space flights. By nationality, thirteen were American (including one born in India), four were Russian (Soviet Union), and one was Israeli.

Eleven people (all men) have lost their lives training for spaceflight: eight Americans and three Russians. Six of these were in crashes of training jet aircraft, one drowned during water recovery training, and four were due to fires in pure oxygen environments.

The Space Mirror Memorial, which stands on the grounds of the John F. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, commemorates the lives of the men and women who have died during spaceflight and during training in the space programs of the United States. In addition to twenty NASA career astronauts, the memorial includes the names of a U.S. Air Force X-15 test pilot, a U.S. Air Force officer who died while training for a then-classified military space program, and a civilian spaceflight participant.

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External links

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