Astronaut is one of those dream jobs we all hope we get when we're 6, right up there with rock star, football legend and Master of the Universe. But if you're willing to jump through the hoops, it is an attainable gig. NASA just announced a new round of hiring for astronaut candidates, and if you meet the qualifications, you could be in space in just a few years.
Sadly, but not surprisingly, becoming an astronaut isn't easy. It takes brains, fitness and the right physical dimensions (no, really) to even get through the door, and after all that you're subjected to a week of tests and interviews, and even then you're not guaranteed a shot at space unless you make it through a grueling two-year training program.
The job overview that comes with your application is four pages long, but here are a few of the highlights:
You've got to have at least a bachelor's degree in a particular field, namely engineering, biological science, physical science or mathematics. You can't get through with a nursing degree, though, or a technology degree, or even an aviation degree. The right diploma is key.
After that degree is in your hands, you need at least three years of "related, progressively responsible, professional experience or at least 1,000 hours pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft." If you've got an advanced degree, though, you can sub that out for your on the job experience. Three years for a doctorate, one year for a master's.
You have to pass the "long-duration space flight physical." Among the things you have to have to pass said physical are vision correctable to 20/20, sitting blood pressure of 140/90 and a height between 62 and 75 inches. The height thing is basically to ensure you fit in the spacecraft and suits they have, and this particular application specifies that you must be able to fit inside a Russian Soyuz capsule, since that's where the flying is happening these days. If you make it this far, they will measure every inch of you to make sure.
If you meet all these qualifications, you get the joy of going before a rating panel who will determine how fit you are for the job, and you get to do a week of testing at NASA, followed by further final interviews and evaluations if you make the cut. And all of this is just to be a candidate for space. Then you get to go train in Houston for two years to make sure you've got, as they say, the right stuff.
But hey, if you make it through all of that and you're still standing, they'll pay you anywhere between $64,724 and $141,715 a year, you get full benefits, and you get to go into space. Not bad for government work.