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Do you want to reach for the stars? Is gazing at the sky your daily bread? Is this world just not enough for you? If you answer ‘yes’ to these questions, then there might be an Astronaut within you waiting to break free and venture above and beyond the horizon of the Earth!
Becoming an Astronaut sure is hard but nothing worth having comes easy, right? All you need is a launch pad, a career counselling platform like this, proper career guidance, career planning to help you realize your dreams.
First things first, who is an astronaut? Is anybody traveling to outer space an astronaut? Well, though the term is reserved for professional space travelers, it is sometimes applied to anyone traveling into space.
A professional is trained to command, pilot, or serve as a crew member of a spacecraft. Well then, who is a cosmonaut? Quite simply, they perform the same function but the title is given to a professional from Russia. Astronaut is the title used largely in the USA and Europe. The word ‘Astronaut’ is derived from the Greek words ‘Astron’ meaning star, and ‘Nautes’ meaning sailor.
All right, now that we know who an Astronaut is, the obvious next question is ‘what do they do in space’? Astronauts are experiments themselves! Though they observe and photograph changes in the Earth over time and perform other scientific experiments, they themselves are studied to determine how humans behave in isolation and how the human body reacts to long-term space travel.
They spend their time in a space station wherein they can communicate with people in the Earth. In fact, NASA Astronaut Shane Kimbrough even voted from space this year! Space travel has always been one of the coolest professions of all time and not surprisingly, Astronauts are looked upon as the most adventurous people of(f) the planet.
How then, does one become an astronaut? If you wish to choose this as your profession, a little more than the three basic qualifications, an undergraduate degree in an Engineering field, physical fitness and a citizenship of a country where the space agency has a program to send professionals to space, is necessary.
Lets us understand the first requirement completely. To become a commander or a pilot, one must have a degree in engineering, biological science, physical science or mathematics. Moreover, as a pilot-in-command, one must have clocked at least 1000 hours of flying time in a jet aircraft. Experience as a test pilot is desirable.
To become a mission specialist, a three-year work experience in your related field of study is necessary. Moreover, an advanced degree such as a Master’s or a Doctorate is required. Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian-born woman in space, had earned two Masters Degrees before finishing her Doctorate! To become a Mission Specialist Educator or Educator Astronauts, you need to have a bachelor's degree with teaching experience, including work at the kindergarten through the twelfth-grade level. An advanced degree, such as a master's degree or a doctoral degree, is not required but could give an edge in the selection process. So if you are still in school, you need to select the science stream to be on track to becoming an Astronaut. Though math and science are very important, history and communication skills are equally important and need attention.
If you enroll for a career counseling session, the guide would tell you more about extracurricular activities that would aid your application. This could be the extra projects, any skill you need to learn, such as a foreign language, and so on. Every Astronaut in NASA needs to undergo training in Russian! Knowing Russian is mandatory because they need to communicate with the mission commander of Soyuz, which is a Russian spacecraft. You would get to know many such details if you opt for career counseling and knowing a lot before starting can help you plan ahead.
Honing your skills right from school would mold you into a well-rounded person and all a student needs is a good career counseling platform. Career counseling would help not only if you want to be an Astronaut but also if you are interested in working at a base station as an Engineer or a Research Scientist in ISRO or NASA. Transitioning from a Fighter pilot to an Astronaut is simpler because they already have flying experience and need not be trained from the scratch. Quick question! Who was the first person to walk on the moon? Neil Armstrong, we all know that. But why is this important here? He was a fighter pilot. Your career counseling session will let you know which route is the best option for you to become an Astronaut. Needless to say, entering into NASA or ISRO would mean clearing an entrance examination. However, your probability of being selected into ISRO would be increased, if you are from IIT and have good grades.
Moving on, probably the most difficult part is to clear the physical examinations. Apart from having a near perfect vision and normal blood pressure, one must have their height and weight in a particular class. To get into ISRO, the minimum height is 165cm and minimum weight is 50 kg. They have a set of eight endurance tests wherein the applicant has to select five and secure at least a two-star rating in them. Similarly, NASA has their own set of stringent standards which would generally narrow down the eight thousand eligible applicants to around six astronauts.
After becoming an astronaut, to survive in space, two years of training and evaluation would begin. You need to become SCUBA qualified and must complete military water survival. Militarily trained applicants would have the expected physical endurance and hence opting for military training for a couple of years would be a good choice after your undergraduate degree. If you decide to go this route, ask your guide about the engineering stream that would best suit your needs in your career counseling session. Moreover, there are career counseling platforms to guide you specifically for a military career.
Lastly, the seemingly simple requirement of citizenship must be understood. Have you ever wondered why there is no Indian who has ventured into space? Unfortunately, ISRO does not have programs to send people into space at least for another ten years. At the moment, the countries which have an established program are the USA, China, and Russia. Getting a citizenship in any of these countries is mandatory to get into their respective space agencies. However, apart from India, more than twenty countries have confirmed and dated plans for human spaceflight programs. If you are in school, by the time you get your degrees and gain experience in your chosen field, who knows, you might just be on time for the ride of your life!
Apart from these requirements, any career would definitely need certain unspoken qualifications such as perseverance, patience, hard work and most of all, passion. Choosing this career is the same as choosing any career in life. The travel is long and the view is better. Recently, there have been many private ventures taking on space travel. Virgin Galactic is one such company to hire astronauts. Interestingly, there have been quite a few self-funded space travelers! As of today, seven people have paid the Russian space agency to fly into space!
There are several informative career counselling blogs that would be helpful in your pursuit of becoming an Astronaut.