So You Want to Be an Astronaut?

The term "astronaut" derives from the Greek words meaning "space sailor". Since the Canadian Astronaut Program was established in 1983, twelve Canadians have been selected to become astronauts. Currently there are four active Canadian Astronauts: Julie Payette, Chris Hadfield, Jeremy Hansen and David Saint-Jacques.

First the brutal truth: being an astronaut is extremely competitive. In May 2008, the Canadian Space Agency invited Canadians to apply to become new astronaut recruits. Out of the 5351 people who applied, only two were selected after an entire year of rigorous evaluation.

Still interested? Here are some tips

Be a citizen of a country that has a space agency capable of sending humans to earth

The United States and Russia have their own space agencies (NASA and ROSCOSMOS). NASA has an international agreement with Canada, Japan, Russia, Brazil which can select their own astronauts. China also has manned space flight capabilities.

Get a good education

You need to have (really) good grades and focus on the following subjects:

  • Science
  • Computer Science
  • Math
  • Advanced Science and Advanced Math

And there's more you can do to increase your chances of getting into a top-notch university.

  • Join robotics clubs, science clubs, computer clubs at your school. Learn as much as you can.
  • Enter science, math and robotics competitions sponsored by national organizations.
  • Museums, planetariums and universities offer after school, weekend classes and summer camps that specialize in science and space.
  • Join a scouting club. Many astronauts have been former scouts, it's a great place to learn skills.

In all that spare time, learn some new languages - especially Russian.

Go to a good college or university

You'll need to have a bachelor's degree in math, physics, science or engineering from a reputable school. And again, you need to have (really) good grades.

Look into ROTC programs (in the United States) or a military college (in Canada). Your ultimate goal it to become a test pilot because they have the most experience flying experimental aircraft.

Get some professional experience

You need to have at least three years OR at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in a jet aircraft.

Professional experience can be an advanced degree (a masters counts as one year and a PhD as three years regardless of how long it actually took) or some sort of job related to something an astronaut would have to do. This would include navigating, working with computers, chemistry/biology or commanding a ship. Teachers (both college and K-12) are encouraged to apply since teaching is such an important part of being an astronaut.

Pass the NASA long-duration space flight physical

You need to have:

  • Distant and near visual acuity that is correctable to 20/20 in each eye (astronauts do wear contact lenses in space)
  • Blood pressure that does not exceed 140/90 in a sitting position
  • You must be between 157 and 190 cm tall (5 to 6 1/4 feet tall)

 

Complete the training

Training starts at the Canadian Space Agency and continues at the Johnson Space Centre in Texas. Courses include parachute jumping, SCUBA training, survival training, public speaking and, of course, more science and math. (see more)

 

<p><br /><p>


CBC Shop

Purchase Nature of Things merchandise.

CBC Shop

Also on CBC