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How Do You Become an Astronaut?

Part 2: Getting into Space

During the first month of your training, you also have to pass a swimming test, which has two parts: You have to tread water for 10 minutes at a time, and you have to swim three lengths of a 25-meter pool in a flight suit and tennis shoes. (You don't have a time limit; you just have to be able to do it.)

You'll also be exposed to high-pressure and low-pressure situations, both of which you will face as you fly up through Earth's atmosphere and into space. You'll get to experience weightlessness as well, so when you get into space you won't be just sailing around the shuttle.

During this time, pilots also keep up their flying training by piloting special NASA jets.

Next, it's on to the single systems trainer (SST), which gets you used to doing the things you'll do during your mission. You learn to operate equipment that will be aboard the shuttle and how to deal with malfunctions and other problems.

Following the SST, you'll move on to the complex Shuttle Mission Simulators (SMSs). This is about as close to reality as it gets. You simulate (or "pretend to do") all phases of the major flight phases: prelaunch, ascent, orbit operations, entry and landing. You can also learn how to operate the shuttle's giant robotic arm and other special parts.

Once you finish with the SMSs, you're just about there. After some final preparations and briefings from NASA, you're ready to blast off into space.

First page > Making the Grade > Page 1, 2

Graphics courtesy of ArtToday



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