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How Do You Become an Astronaut?

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• Columbia's Last Flight
The Crew of Columbia's Last Flight
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What Happens on a Shuttle Mission?
What Do Astronauts Eat in Space?

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• Fact Sheet: Astronaut Training

Part 1: Making the Grade

Anyone can become an astronaut if he or she works hard enough and has the right skills and education.

To be a pilot, you need to have at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet airplanes. It also helps to be a test pilot. Since it is easiest to get this experience in the U.S. military, many astronauts who are pilots have a military background. Pilots must also pass a difficult physical examination, including good eyesight, low blood pressure, and a specified range in height (64-76 inches).

To be a mission specialist, you need to have at least a bachelor's degree in engineering, biological science, physical science, or mathematics. (A master's degree and doctoral degree help.) You also need to work for three years in a related field, such aerospace engineering. Lastly, you must pass a physical examination similar to those that pilots have to pass, with a slightly lower requirements in eyesight and height (58.5-76 inches).

You also have a to fill out an application.

Every so often, NASA (the National Aeronautic and Space Administration, which runs the astronaut program) selects a group of astronaut hopefuls, from which some might make it into the training program. These hopefuls undergo more training and physical examinations, as well as personal interviews with NASA staff. Finally, a small handful are selected to be astronauts.

If you're chosen, your training really begins. You get to go to the Johnson Space Flight Center, in Houston, Texas. Once there, you take more classes and undergo intense physical training. Among the subjects you study are mathematics, geology meteorology, guidance and navigation, oceanography, orbital dynamics, astronomy, physics, and materials processing. You also get trained in land and sea survival training, scuba diving, and space suit maneuvering.

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