Have you ever wondered if you have what it takes to become a NASA Astronaut? The term “astronaut” derives from the Greek words meaning “space sailor,” and refers to all who have been launched as crew members aboard NASA spacecraft bound for orbit and beyond. Since the inception of NASA’s human space flight program, we have also maintained the term “astronaut” as the title for those selected to join the NASA corps of astronauts who make “space sailing” their career profession. The term “cosmonaut” refers to those space sailors who are members of the Russian space program.
The crew of each launched spacecraft is made up of astronauts or cosmonauts drawn from the various categories described in these pages. The crew assignments and duties of commander, pilot, mission specialist, or payload specialist are drawn from the NASA professional career astronauts. Mission Applicants for the Astronaut Candidate Program must be citizens of the United States.
Commander and Pilot Astronaut Duties
Pilot astronauts serve as both Space Shuttle and International Space Station commanders and pilots. During flight, the commander has onboard responsibility for the vehicle, crew, mission success and safety of flight. The pilot assists the commander in controlling and operating the vehicle. In addition, the pilot may assist in the deployment and retrieval of satellites utilizing the remote manipulator system, in extravehicular activities, and in other payload operations.
Basic requirements for an Astronaut Pilot include the following:
1. Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in engineering, biological science, physical science, or mathematics. An advanced degree is desirable. Quality of academic preparation is important.
2. At least 1,000 hours pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. Flight test experience is highly desirable.
3. Ability to pass a NASA space physical which is similar to a military or civilian flight physical and includes the following specific standards:
Distant visual acuity: 20/100 or better uncorrected, correctable to 20/20 each eye.
Blood pressure: 140/90 measured in a sitting position.
Height between 62 and 75 inches.