Astronauts serve as either pilots or commanders on a space shuttle. They manage the spacecraft, oversee the crew and ensure the safety of the flight. In addition, they may perform a wide array of tasks aboard the International Space Station (ISS), including completing scientific research in a microgravity environment.
Duties and responsibilities
- Participate in intense training programmes to prepare the human body for entry into space
- Coordinate multiple activities abroad the spacecraft or space station, including meal planning
- Partake in extravehicular activity
- Pilot the space shuttle and navigate extravehicular remote devices
- Use the Onboard Short Term Plan Viewer (OSTPV), a timeline or graph of the daily ISS schedule
- Deploy or retrieve satellites using technology on the shuttle or space station
- Exercise for two hours each day on the ISS to maintain muscle tone and fitness levels
- Communicate with astronauts who are currently in space, serving as support personnel
- Assist other scientists in designing and testing experiments
- Observe and photograph natural and manmade changes on Earth
- Study magnetorheological fluids with a glovebox to improve transportation back home
- Give media interviews to the press, either from inside the space shuttle or upon returning to Earth
Skills and knowledge
AVERAGE WORKING HOURS
On a rota
An astronaut’s workday does vary based on where they are: Earth or space.
At home, astronauts typically work for between 40 and 50 hours a week, preparing and training for their next mission at a facility. They will also work with other scientists in developing experiments and conducting tests in a laboratory, and then analyse the results in an office environment.
In space, their workday is quite different. They will typically work from 6am to 9:30pm, which include more than two hours of physical exercise and three meals.
It should be noted that astronauts will only spend a small portion of their careers in space.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through PayScale.com.
Bachelor’s in science or related field
To become an astronaut, NASA and space agencies around the world maintain basic requirements to be hired for the job. The main prerequisite is a bachelor’s degree in biological science, computer science, engineering, mathematics or physical science.
You will also need three years of professional experience or 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in a jet aircraft, as well as pass an exhaustive physical examination.
During the early years of being an astronaut, you will become acquainted with the ISS, complete work in capsule communication (CAPCOM), perform two years of additional elementary training, learn Russian, become a qualified scuba diver and get exposed to high and low atmospheric pressures.
Even after all this, you will still not be assigned to a flight for a few more years. However, once you have been selected for a spaceflight, you will spend another couple of years reading textbooks, receiving classroom training and performing multiple simulations.
By the end of your astronaut career, you will be given a senior role in NASA or another space agency.