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The Question

(Submitted December 09, 1996)

What do I have to do to became an astronaut?

The Answer

For this we can perhaps point you in the right direction. We do not know how far along you are in school now, so our suggestions might not be totally appropriate:

In school from K-12: Work hard and get A's. These programs are very competitive, so it is important to do well in school (especially in math and science).

You might also think about where you go to college. If you want to be pilot, you might think about going to one of the military academies (Air Force, Army, Navy), because they will teach you to fly. These have the advantage that they are free for you to attend and you will become an officer when you graduate. If you plan it correctly, you will be a pilot and get lots of flight experience and technical training. Most pilots are from a military background, while the mission specialists are usually civilians.

To be a mission specialist, you will need some academic area of expertise. If you work on the development of detectors on satellites, this would be very helpful. We suggest that you apply for the NASA summer programs and pick a major and research projects in the Earth or Space sciences, or Engineering, that involve NASA missions. You might want to look at the NASA programs home page at: http://university.gsfc.nasa.gov so that you can apply for them when you become qualified.

Once you have obtained your B.S. and the required amount of experience, you will need to apply to the astronaut training program. All we know about this program we learned from reading the home page at: http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/more.html

We suggest that you read this home page now, and periodically in the future, so you can plan towards that goal. You will need both to fulfill the basic requirements and be better than many others who apply.

Good luck, and we are sure that if you work hard toward this goal it will pay off for you in the long-run whatever you decide to do.

Jonathan Keohane and Koji Mukai
for Imagine the Universe!

Questions on this topic are no longer responded to by the "Ask an Astrophysicist" service. See http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/ask_astro/ask_an_astronomer.html for help on other astronomy Q&A services.

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