The Right Stuff
Many children dream about going to space and exploring the vast universe. A big dream – such as being an astronaut – always require good plan in order to achieve it. The most important question which can be asked what I must do to have a good chance to fly to space? It is not a simple question to be answered and I asked my self this question for a long time (may be 20 years).
I will try to give the answer which I have concluded after searching for long years. However the answer is not obsolete but it does give an impression about the plan you need to work on.
Being an astronaut is a very cool thing indeed but in the end it is a job, a normal job that you apply for. In order to be accepted for such job you need to have the requirements and desired skills which puts you ahead. There are three main directions you need to work on and improve in order to have a good chance. The three directions are; scientific knowledge, skills and physical status.
1] Scientific Knowledge
The astronaut job is considered like an investment according to a space agency or a program approach. The most important thing an astronaut should have; is the scientific knowledge. In the end an astronaut is the human component doing experiment in space. An astronaut must understand how a scientific experiment is concluded and how research is mainly executed. There is no a specific science major you must purse but mainly anything in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) majors is preferred. You must be with elite status with one of those scientific major in order to be a good candidate to fly to space. However, there are some few exceptions like being a very good commercial pilot and having about 1000 flying hours under your belt.
There some skills you can obtain which can enhance your chance to be an astronaut candidate. The first one is flying, not necessary a commercial pilot but only a private license. Being a pilot provides the knowledge of aerodynamics, safety procedures, communication and many other skills which are very helpful to an astronaut candidate. Another skill is diving according to two main reasons. First any diver handle the various levels of air pressure as going down or up direction. The astronaut suit or the space shuttle must handle the decrease in pressure in launch and increase in pressure during reentry. The second reason is bouncy which equalize with the gravity force to keep the diver at certain level. Of course it is not considered as a real simulation of microgravity as the gravity force is still there, but diving provides the zero gravity feeling to an astronaut candidate. That is the main reason of the large swimming pool located (Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory) at NASA Johnson Space Center to train astronaut for various missions. The final skill is languages; space travel is a cooperation between various countries, so the knowledge of more than one language (especially English and Russian) is a good advantage for any astronaut.
3] Physical Status
The physical status of an astronaut is also an important aspect. An astronaut should not be a perfect athlete but a healthy person who eats well and do sport regularly even for short intervals. The hard part of physical status is handling the hard environment of space travel such as the high G forces during launch and reentry. Unfortunately, how a person can bare such forces is not controlled completely by the person himself but mainly by his/her body shape and organs or psychological behavior. Any candidate must pass through various simulations such as a G-force centrifuge in order to find his capability against high G-forces. The results of such examinations shall determine the type of vehicle or a mission which the candidate can participate in according to the maximum G-forces values.
NASTAR Centrifuge Center in Philadelphia, USA
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