How to become an Astronaut – UK edition

How to become an Astronaut – UK edition

We all have dreams and, if we’re lucky, we get to fulfil at least some of them.

One dream a lot of youngsters have is to explore space, maybe land on the moon or, even go to another far away planet like Mars. As technology advances, who’s to say we won’t be exploring other planets?

But, to get there is a long process. Becoming an astronaut is achievable – you don’t need to be American (or Russian, for that matter) – as our own Tim Peake has demonstrated.

Just how do you get to literally see the world?

Of course, everybody is different and requirements may change, but in general you should aim to be studying engineering, biological science, maths or physical sciences. It’s probably best to be aiming for a degree/PhD in your chosen discipline, although, occasionally, other subject areas like aviation may be considered.

It’s worth bearing in mind that, even if you are ultimately unsuccessful in becoming an astronaut, studying any of the above to degree level (or beyond) will stand you in good stead for virtually any career you choose otherwise.

The National Careers Service (at the time of writing) also says that it’s helpful to speak a second language (like Russian) as well as fluent English. The European Astronaut Corps specifies you’ll need at least 3 years’ experience in your chosen area.

As a pilot, you’ll need to have at least 1,000 hours in a high-performance jet. This is why a lot of astronauts are picked from the Air Force or Navy – their experience of piloting fighter jets is invaluable.

You’ll need the following skills:

  • excellent scientific or flight skills
  • excellent physical and psychological strength to live in confined spaces for long periods
  • the ability to stay calm during an emergency
  • determination
  • adaptability and good judgement

and, you’ll be tested to the absolute limit – repeatedly. You’ll need to pass both physical, intelligence and psychological profiling tests to prove that you are fit enough to be in space, both in terms of your body and your mind. Tim Peake once said:

“the testing process was one of the most invasive weeks of my life.”

You may have to apply repeatedly, as the selection process is extremely competitive. It may be that you’ll need to develop your physical attributes or undertake further education to progress.

When the ESA called for applicants in 2008, 0f the 10,000 that applied, only 22 made it through to the formal interviews, 10 got through to meeting the agency’s director general and only 5 made it through to training.

That said, you’ll have experiences like no other – from the scuba sessions, to learning to deal with extreme changes in atmosphere, low gravity and, most likely, helping with other missions on earth before finally getting and training for your own mission.

A career as an astronaut is definitely ‘out of this world!’

For further information, we encourage you to take a look at the ESA website at http://www.esa.int

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