Astronauts: The Importance of Mental & Physical Pre-Flight Fitness
While most people understand that becoming an Astronaut isn't the simplest career to break into, they probably don't understand the rigorous mental and physical conditioning required to prepare an individual's mind and body for space. Beyond the physical strain placed on a person's body during the actual flight to space, the more time in space, the more strain on the body. NASA has recognized the necessity for a program to prepare the Astronauts for their mission to space, in addition to post rehabilitation upon returning to earth.
NASA Selection Process
Finding the appropriate person to send to space, as well as preparing them for travel, is a scrupulous process that NASA has perfected to provide the Astronauts with a superb quality of Psychiatric Treatment and physical fitness testing. A few of the selected traits that NASA searches for is:
- Strong Communication Skills
- Robust Motivation
- Teamwork Skills
- Leadership Ability
Mental stability is one of the most important factors for choosing the appropriate person. This is usually not difficult to find due to the types of careers that the selection of candidates come from, for example, fighter pilots, engineers with doctorate degrees, CIA or FBI agents, just to name a few.
Physique and fitness are also a top priority for candidates being considered for the NASA program. A trait that some do not consider is the height, because of limited space within the space shuttle, in addition to blood pressure, eyesight, and excellent health overall.
After being selected as an Astronaut candidate, there is a qualification period of two years compiled of specialized training all over the world. This training is that of boot camp with military style water exercises, classroom training, and Russian language training. After graduating and becoming an official Astronaut, it could be several years before qualifying for an actual flight to space.
Physical and Mental Preparation
Two years prior to a space mission, NASA notifies those selected for the space trip to allow time for physical and mental preparation for them and their families. Mental health evaluations become a regular activity for the Astronaut, as so does psychological training on dealing with other Astronauts on the flight.
Gravity plays an important role in the human body's physical makeup, consequently living in an environment with little to no gravity causes a reaction in the human body similar to that of someone being bedridden. Increased strain on the cardiovascular system also plays a major role in the health of an Astronaut during a space flight. Due to the physical burden on the body throughout even a short space flight, let alone a lengthy space flight, being physically fit is of tremendous importance for the Astronaut.
Requirements of cardiovascular activity through aerobic workouts, water training, cycling, and treadmill exercises, often completed within the microgravity simulator to further understand the outer space environment and effects on the human body. Continuous cardiovascular exercise throughout the space flight is imperative for the Astronauts to maintain their range of motion in their joints. While weights do not offer any benefit in space, resistance training assists in reversing bodily fluids back to a normal state which then relieves post flight weakness, fatigue, dizziness, and other symptoms of Orthostatic Intolerance.
Becoming a NASA Astronaut is a massive accomplishment for any person, moreover, traveling to outer space for any amount of time is even more of an accomplishment. Training for both is an extensive process that NASA continues to redefine and improve to prepare the Astronaut for the safest experience possible.