Astronaut

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Astronauts fly spacecraft and do experiments in space.

Salary range: £40,000 to £80,000

How to become an astronaut

You can get into this career by:

  • applying directly

Direct application

You can apply for astronaut training with the European Astronaut Corps or with NASA.

You need to be between 27 and 37 years old and able to speak English fluently. It’ll be helpful if you can speak basic Russian because it’s used along with English on the International Space Station.

You’ll have an advantage if you’re a pilot with at least 1,000 hours of flying experience in a high performance aircraft like a fighter jet.

You’ll also need a degree and a postgraduate qualification in a relevant subject like:

  • biology, chemistry or physics
  • engineering
  • medicine
  • aeronautics
  • mathematics

You must hold US citizenship or US dual-citizenship to become an astronaut with NASA.

More information

Career tips

There’s only a small number of astronaut training places available when recruitment occurs, and there’s a lot of competition for them.

Further information

You can discover more about how to become an astronaut from the European Space Agency and SpaceCareers.uk.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You’ll need:

  • the ability to use your judgement and make decisions
  • the ability to operate and control equipment
  • physical skills like movement, coordination, dexterity and grace
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • leadership skills
  • observation and recording skills
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • thinking and reasoning skills
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

Restrictions and requirements

You’ll need to:

  • pass a medical check
  • have a good level of fitness

What you’ll do

Day-to-day tasks

Your duties could include:

  • cleaning and testing air filters and air quality
  • repairing, maintaining and testing oxygen production systems
  • cleaning and maintaining water systems and testing for bacterial growth
  • packaging and disposing of waste
  • replacing worn or broken parts on the spacecraft
  • installing or repairing scientific instruments and equipment
  • setting up, carrying out and monitoring experiments
  • taking samples, like blood, from astronauts to assess their health
  • communicating with Earth by satellite to transfer data and send reports

Working environment

You could work at a training centre.

Your working environment may be physically and emotionally demanding, cramped and you may spend nights away from home.

Career path and progression

You’ll have several years’ training before you’re ready to be selected for a mission. It may take you years to be selected for a space flight. Once you’re selected, you’ll get mission specific training. Your flight in space could last between 6 months and a year.

With experience you could be selected for other missions. You could also move into management, teaching, research or set up your own consultancy business.

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