How to become an astronaut

India is a country making significant progress in Space Science with its flagship Scientific Research Institution ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation). An Astronaut and a Rocket is the first thing that comes to mind hearing the word Space. Today, we answer the question How to become an Astronaut in India? 

Unlike a job in an office or a factory floor, being an Astronaut is more of a passion. Soon, Astronauts will be walking on other planets and moons to study extraterrestrial nature, geology, life forms, etc. being the very first few to explore space and planets, Institutions around the World cannot bear to give a vacation experience. 

Though centuries of Astronomical research is made to explore outer space, we still know very little about the wonders around the Earth. 

Get to know more about becoming an astronaut, benefits of being an astronaut in this article.

Who is an Astronaut?

“If you want to shine like the sun. First, burn like a Sun” – Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam

As much as the above quote by India’s favorite President stands true for life and all professions, it is literally applicable to Astronauts. 

By definition, an Astronaut is a person trained, equipped, and deployed on Human Spaceflight to land on outer planets or carry out scientific and research activities in outer space as a crew member or the commander. 

To become an Astronaut, one needs to put in decades of their life to acquire education, experience, and training. It is true to say that Nothing is Impossible. But, along with that comes the passion for pursuing a career as an Astronaut. 

To pursue a career as an Astronaut, one has to get an education in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and take an Astronaut Training program to be considered for professional deployment. 

The process is rigorous and needs dedication from the applicant to go through the hard training physically and mentally. 

Why do you Want to Become an Astronaut?

Everyone wishes to experience how the earth can be seen from Outer space. It’s the most spectacular view of the planet Earth with all its glory. Or floating in the International Space Station revolving around the Home planet. 

The level of commitment required to make this dream or wish a reality is unmatched by any other profession. 

It’s not like any other profession that can be switched to other within a matter of days or months. Passion is what drives one to choose this career path. Even if failing to complete various stages, the STEM foundation can help obtain a career in the associated fields of Space Science. 

Space Technology is an unexplored domain and extensive research is required to get a better understanding. 

Not all research and study can be done on the ground using telescopes and supercomputers. To understand space, people need to be sent out with specialization that could change the way unexplored science is perceived. 

Specialized expertise in various fields like Microbiology, Chemistry, Astronomy, Physics, etc will be the basic Astronaut Qualification.

Strong Motivation and Emotional Stability through the tedious course of training in zero gravity atmospheres where survivability chances keep reducing and acing them is why one should be a Passionate Astronaut. 

What Does an Astronaut Do?

The primary job of an astronaut on the International Space Station is to carry out experiments and handle the operation of the space station. Astronauts carry out scientific experiments to understand outer space and observe dramatic changes in Earth’s weather. 

Though in general, candidates from all science and engineering streams are called Astronauts they generally are enlisted on missions based on their scientific expertise. Some of the roles of astronauts are.

      • Mission Commander

      • Spacecraft Pilot

      • Payload Specialist

      • Flight Engineer

      • Mission Specialist

    Skills to Become an Astronaut

    Apart from the Qualifications for applying as an Astronaut, there are certain skills one needs to possess. 

        • Proficiency in English as a primary communication language. 

        • Communication skill

        • Ability to Multitask 

        • Be a team player

        • Leadership skills

        • Good observation

        • Be creative and resourceful

        • Be Resilient and Adoptable

        • Trust team members

        • Most importantly, the ability to handle emergencies.

      Qualifications of an Astronaut in ISRO/India

      Every profession needs certain Qualifications to be possessed by the applicant. And, to become an Astronaut in India, the requirements are much more and here they are.

          • One must be a citizen of India.

          • Since ISRO is just recently starting with Manned missions, an Indian Air Force pilot with professional experience is preferred. One could currently try enlisting through the Indian Air Force. The criteria may change in the future. 

          • A bachelor’s degree from a recognized Institution or University with a specialization in Mathematics, Physics, Engineering, Chemistry, Biology, or Computer Science. 

          • A CGPA of 6.84 on a 10 scale or an aggregate of 65%.

          • Additional master’s or doctoral degree in Aerospace Engineering, Aeronautical Engineering, and Specialized Sciences helps in better consideration. 

        Astronaut Qualifications in NASA 

        NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) is the most active Space Organisation in terms of manned space missions with a substantial stake in the International Space Station. Here are the qualifications necessary for NASA’s Astronaut program.

            • Applicants must be citizens of the United States of America.

            • A Bachelor’s degree in STEM programs. 

            • An aggregate of 65% is required.

            • A minimum of 3 years or 1000 hours of experience in Piloting. 

          Physical Requirements at ISRO/NASA/SpaceX

          There are certain medical and physical requirements adopted by different Space research Organisations to recruit in-house Astronauts. 

          Being thousands of kilometers from the ground can in no way assure emergency services especially medical. So, as a precaution, medical history and physical fitness are reviewed before consideration for astronauts. 

          1. ISRO Astronaut Requirements

          Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has started preparation for its much anticipated manned space mission by training the first batch of Astronauts primarily from the Indian Air Force.  The applicants must have satisfactory medical history across different regions of the body. Not just the individual medical history, but even the family medical history is reviewed to detect any potential concerns. Apart from Medical parameters, history of substance abuse, behavioral aspects, and mental capabilities are reviewed. 

          2. NASA Astronaut Requirements

          Physical and Medical requirements at NASA require one to undergo a Survivability test for Physical assessment which includes Scuba Diving, atmospheric pressure tests, water survivability, etc. Individual and Familial Medical history, Cognitive aspects, mental capabilities, etc are reviewed as well. 

          3. SpaceX Astronaut Requirements

          SpaceX is a private Space Company aiming to make interplanetary travel a reality. With this as the mission, the company needs Astronauts to make space travel a feasible medium. Here are some of the requirements of SpaceX.

              • Must have 20/20 vision in both eyes.

              • Stable blood pressure not higher than 140/90.

              • Height between 157cm and 190cm.

              • Psychological fitness is important

              • Free of orthopedic ailments.

              • No history of Substance abuse.

            Timeline to Becoming an Astronaut

            There are steps involved in building the foundation to become an Astronaut. With Education and training consuming multiple years, here’s what an ideal timeline looks like. Depending on the circumstances, the time might vary as well. 

            The timeline for being a certified Astronaut is denoted in view of NASA. After completing +2/12th std, here’s how the duration looks like

                • Undergraduate Degree for 3 or 4 years

                • 2 years of Masters’s program

                • 3 years of Professional pilot experience

                • Survivability test 

              In general, it takes at least 10 years for getting Astronaut certification. However, being certified doesn’t mean listing to a mission. 

              Currently, only manned missions to and fro the International Space Station are carried out. Depending upon upcoming missions, the assignments might vary for years, till then one will have to work in their specialized field or the associated Astronaut work. 

              STEM Education for Astronauts

              Basic Education Foundation is a key necessity for pursuing the dream of becoming a Real life Astronaut. One must pursue a science stream after their +10/10th standard. 

              Here are the specializations one pursues after basic Schooling for a bachelor’s degree in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). 

                  • Physics

                  • Chemistry

                  • Biology

                  • Aerospace Engineering

                  • Aeronautical Engineering

                  • Astrophysics

                  • Mathematics

                There are many other streams to follow and being in the STEM field is the right path moving forward in the Astronaut career path. 

                Degrees for Astronaut Qualification

                As we mentioned earlier, STEM Education in Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees is a must. Here are some popular Graduation courses. 

                    • Bachelor/Master of Engineering

                    • Bachelor/Master of Mathematics

                    • Bachelor/Master of Science

                    • Bachelor/Master of Technology

                    • Doctoral program in Astrophysics

                    • Bachelor/Master of Mathematics

                  Top Universities to Become an Astronaut

                  Although there are no specialized courses or institutions that will lead that will make one an Astronaut, there are institutions that will give the basic foundation. Here are the institutes that offer Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. 

                  Institutes in India 

                      • Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)

                      • Indian Institute of Science (IISc)

                      • Indian Institute of Astrophysics

                      • Indian Statistical Institute

                      • Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology

                      • Tata Institute of Fundamental Research

                      • The Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics

                    Institutions Abroad

                        • Massachusetts Institute of Technology

                        • Stanford University

                        • University of Oxford

                        • University of Toronto

                        • University of Texas

                      Scope of an Astronaut

                      Once Astronauts have completed their mission multiple times, they become unfit for further missions. After their career, they can continue working in the different associated fields as well. Here are some options. 

                          • University Academic and Research Faculty

                          • R&D centers, On-ground Observatories, and Space Research Labs.

                          • Simulation centers

                          • Space Tourism companies and simulation centers

                          • Science museums and planetariums

                          • Manufacturing industries involved in manufacturing telescopes and other scientific equipment

                          • Military operations

                        Top Recruiters for Astronaut-trained Applicants

                        Many defense companies and research Organizations in India employ candidates with prior Astronaut training or experience for different roles.

                            • Indian Space Research organization (ISRO)

                            • Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)

                            • Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO)

                            • National Aerospace Limited (NAL)

                          Salary of an Astronaut 

                          Astronauts are actively employed by public enterprises only like NASA and ISRO. Astronaut salary at NASA is between 70,000$ to 160,000$ a year. 

                          Astronauts employed with ISRO are paid close to Rs.15 lakh an annum. Currently benched and active Astronauts are employed with Space Research Organisations backed by the Government. There is very little participation by the Private Sector. 

                          Pros and Cons of Becoming an Astronaut

                          Every profession or a career has pros and cons. Likewise, to become an Astronaut has its hardships and the success as well. Here are the pros and cons of becoming an Astronaut.

                          Pros of Becoming an Astronaut

                              • An Astronaut gets to see the earth in a way only few can get to experience which is once in a lifetime opportunity.

                              • They contribute to the advancement in the field of Space technology and thereby the Science.

                              • The career is definitely worth the curiosity of exploring outer space. 

                            Cons of Becoming an Astronaut

                                • Life is always at risk while on a mission. 

                                • Must be away from friends and families for long periods.

                                • It’s time-consuming to become a successful astronaut

                                • Rigorous training for long hours. 

                              Conclusion

                              Given the limited number of opportunities, there is a huge lineup of applicants with the goal to become an astronaut. Persistence and commitment are key to pursuing this career. 

                              This article covers a wider aspect such as Astronaut Career, Education, Salary, roles, responsibilities, etc. We have addressed the question How to become an Astronaut in India? with this article.

                              Frequently Asked Questions

                              Considering all the education foundation and intensive training in aviation and survivability, it will take at least 10 years after completion+2 education. After being certified as an Astronaut, it will take months and years to get listed for an assignment.

                              We would be lying if we said it’s easy. Becoming an Astronaut is a rigorous process of Education and Training that will push humans to their limits. Only after ensuring all these is a person certified as an Astronaut. 

                              One must pursue Science at +2 level as well. After the 12th standard, one must pursue Bachelor’s in STEM Education i.e Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

                              Currently benched and active Astronauts are employed with Space Research Organisations backed by the Government. There is very little participation by the Private Sector.

                              Astronaut Salary at NASA is between 70,000$ to 160,000$ a year. Astronauts employed with ISRO are paid close to Rs.15 lakh an annum.

                              There’s no official age restriction by the recruiting Space agencies. Although it would be beneficial to start the process at an early age. In general, the candidates are aged between 26 and 44.

                              Medical and Physical Requirements are a must in every Space Organisation. An eyesight with 20/20 vision is a must.

                              An IQ of 130 to 145 is being displayed by currently certified Astronauts.

                              The cost of becoming an Astronaut is around Rs.2 lakh to Rs.5 lakh per year depending on the stage of your preparation. While the college fee may be less but the cost rises with training.

                              No, only the citizens of America can join NASA as astronauts. However, citizens of other countries must give up their existing citizenship and get Citizenship from the United States of America to be considered for an Astronaut.

                              NASA is the World’s most reputed Space Research Organisation in the World. With this reputation comes a huge number of applications for roles in NASA.

                              Absolutely, it is hard to get selected at NASA but not impossible. To know more on how to become an astronaut, read the article above.

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