Different Astronaut Professions and Backgrounds

If you dreamed of growing up to be an astronaut when you were little, you weren’t alone.  For most of us, being a child meant being almost possessed by a fascination with the concept of getting paid to explore space.  In our simpler minds, we believed that we simply needed to have a passion for space travel in order to make our astronaut-related dreams come true.

However, as adults, we know that becoming an astronaut isn’t something that can be decided on a whim.  In order to earn this title, we must have the right educational background, and that can take years upon years to acquire.  After all, this is a pretty demanding job, and not everyone is cut out for the role.

We also discover that being an astronaut is a lot more than simply sitting in a spacecraft and enjoying the view.  In fact, the term “astronaut” encompasses several different jobs, with each one being incredibly important to the success of the mission. 

Today, we’ll be talking about the different astronaut professions.  As you’ll see, the right space travel team is composed of a variety of jobs, with each one contributing something extremely significant to the overall objective.

What’s Required to Become an Astronaut?

There are some basic requirements for every astronaut.  They must have a bachelor’s degree in one of the following fields: computer sciences, engineering, biological sciences, physical sciences or mathematics.  Once they have acquired their degree, they most often must have three years of professional experience in their chosen field.  However, if they have a doctorate’s degree in one of these sciences, they do not require professional experience.  And, if they have a master’s, they only require two years of professional experience.

Additionally, astronauts must pass a series of tests before being considered for the job.  You can understand that it’s extremely important that they’re in good physical health, for one thing.  After all, being away from one’s home planet means that they can’t just run to the emergency room should they have a condition that causes sudden problems during a mission. 

They also must be in good mental health.  After all, space travel is very demanding psychologically.  It’s isolating, and the job itself can be extraordinarily stressful.  They must show that they can mentally handle the responsibility and the unusual environment.

Then, of course, they must go through a good deal of training for a specific mission.  If they are able to complete their training, they are then considered for a mission that can best utilize their unique skills.

Getting Acquainted with Their Professional Backgrounds

Any space mission requires a team of astronauts, and each member of the team brings something unique to the table. 

  • A mathematician is required as a lot of data must be recorded, and also because mathematical equations are necessary for space travel in terms of operating the spacecraft.
  • An engineering expert is also crucial. That’s because the spacecraft and all of its various instruments and machinery requires the understanding of advanced technology.  An astronaut with a background in engineering ensures that repairs can be made and that recording instruments can function properly.
  • A person with a background in biology is essential, as human biology comes into play a great deal during a space mission. After all, we know that space alters us on a biological level.  The right expert will be able to aid in the process of adjusting to this type of environment in a way that prevents people from becoming ill.  Additionally, space missions may involve interacting with living organisms, and a biologist will be able to use their experience in order to make important discoveries.
  • A physical science expert is equally important. The rules of physics are the laws of space, after all.  During a space mission, we use physics laws to record data, guide the spacecraft and more.
  • Computer sciences experts are more in demand than ever before, as you can probably imagine. Technology has evolved in a way that we are largely dependent on computers, and this is truer in space than anywhere else.  Computers serve as data recorders, communication devices and guides for spacecraft.  Therefore, computer science experts are necessary in order to operate this technology, and they also must be capable of fixing the computers if something goes wrong, as the mission depends on it.

Also, within a shuttle crew exists three main positions. There are, typically, two pilots, with one being referred to as the commander, and in the space travel hierarchy, they are the most important.  The commander has the top position, with the pilot coming in at a close second.  They are the ones who are responsible for the mission, the spacecraft and the rest of the team, so an extraordinary amount of pressure is put on them.  They are also chiefly in charge of communications back to Earth.

Then, there is a group of mission specialists with backgrounds in the various sciences that we discussed earlier.  They use their specialties to ensure that the mission is a successful one, and they are selected based on the unique nature of the mission. 

Lastly, there are the payload specialists.  Now, the term is a bit misleading, because one would think that they’re simply up in space handing out paychecks to the other astronauts.  In fact, payload specialists are there to perform specific jobs that are required for the unique mission that they are on.  Payload specialists are not actually NASA employees.  They were handpicked by NASA for their highly specialized skills.

Being a True Expert in their Field

Being an astronaut requires a good deal of education, and there are different specialty jobs that an astronaut can provide.  For instance, some astronauts provide their mathematical expertise in order to record data, while others are engineering professionals who are capable of operating the equipment as well as the spacecraft.  In order to earn this very privileged title, a person must be an expert in their field, and this is why the role of astronaut is so coveted.
  • Sep 21, 2019
  • Category: Blog
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