When we're kids, many of us have big dreams for our futures. We want to be president of the United States, a doctor, and, in many cases, an astronaut. A lot of the time, those dreams change as we grow, but for a select few, the thoughts of being blasted into space, walking on the moon, and exploring the unknown never waiver. But even if your dreams of becoming an astronaut feel like they're from a lifetime ago, you're probably still curious about what it actually takes to make it happen.
By the year 2024, NASA's Artemis program will send the first woman and the next man to the moon. The pair will travel in the Orion spacecraft atop the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which will also make a trip to Mars within the next few decades. This will be the furthest humans have ever traveled into space!
In their quest to expand human exploration within the solar system, NASA is currently on the lookout for new astronauts to join the crew for multiple deep-space destinations. Whether the idea intrigues you in a general sense or you're interested in taking the necessary steps to get there, know that becoming an astronaut isn't for the faint of heart. In addition to obtaining a master's degree in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) field, applicants have to complete further training and successfully pass a physical as well as two rounds of interviews. Astronauts currently in space work on the International Space Station, a laboratory that orbits 240 miles above Earth's surface, where they conduct scientific experiments like cancer research.
Below, read a detailed list of everything it takes to become an astronaut and travel into space.
- Be a U.S. citizen.
- Obtain a master's degree in a STEM field. Degrees can include engineering, mathematics, or the following types of science: biological, physical, or computer. A master's degree must be from an accredited institution. In substitution of a master's degree, the requirement can be met in the following ways:
- Two years of work toward a doctoral program in a related STEM field; must equal 36 semester hours or 54 quarter hours.
- A completed Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree.
- Completion by June 2021 of a nationally recognized test pilot school program.
- Acquire further training. This can either be at least two years of completed related professional experience after achieving a master's degree or at least 1,000 hours pilot-in-command time on a jet aircraft.
- Pass NASA's physical. Those wanting to be an astronaut must be able to successfully pass NASA's long-duration flight astronaut physical.
- Be invited to the first round of interviews. Interviews take place at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX. NASA's Astronaut Selection Board will only review the most highly qualified candidates and will also be looking for those who exhibit skills in leadership, teamwork, and communication.
- Be invited to the second round of interviews. About half of the first round of interviewed applicants will be invited back for a second round of interviews. From there, the board will select NASA's new astronaut candidates.
- Complete official training. New astronaut candidates spend two years at Johnson Space Center reporting for training, which includes learning basic astronaut skills like spacewalking, operating the space station, flying T-38 jet planes, and controlling a robotic arm.