Normally, astronaut candidates are picked while they are in their 30s and 40s. Since this is typically a period when most people are deep in their careers, once selected, you have to make the conscious decision to abandon all your career aspirations and switch to the very serious business of being at the front line exploring the final frontier.
1959 was a very special year because it was the very first time that the military recruited astronauts. One of the pre-requisites needed at the time was flight experience in jet aircraft and a solid background in engineering. Fascinatingly, all astronaut candidates had to be shorter than 5 feet 11 inches, just tall enough to fit into the Mercury spacecraft.
Later on, NASA had to revise their selection requirements. This was after they realized that astronauts need to have a good understanding of the working of science and how to apply some of the concepts in real-world situations. As such, NASA began seeking scientists to become astronauts in 1964.
While it’s true that having a pilot’s license and some engineering experience was all you needed to join the ranks of NASA as an astronaut when they were starting out, things are vastly different today.
As a U.S. citizen, you also need to meet the following qualifications to become an Astronaut Candidate (usually abbreviated to “AsCan”):
Because thousands of applications get sent in during the selection process, NASA’s Astronaut Selection Board is mandated to review all applications submitted. After analysis, they then proceed to invite about 120 of the best candidates to NASA’s Johnson Space Center situated in Houston, Texas, for interviews.
The first interaction with the candidates enables the interviewers to sieve through the best lot and invite-only half of the original number for further interviewing.
After the astronauts are chosen, they have to undergo a mandatory 2-year training period
As alluded earlier, space travel is no child’s play. On the same breath, it’s also worth noting that space training is also just as intense.
The blood pressure of candidates needs not to exceed 140/90, the eyesight should be at least 20/100 or even better uncorrected. Each eye also needs to register 20/20 vision correctable.
While the Mercury mission is long over, height-wise, astronauts now need to be between 58.5-75 inches tall.
Swimming is also crucially important. Evaluation of candidates is based on military water survival standards. Since this entails candidates being capable of swimming without stopping and to swim and tread water clothed in flight gear, all would-be candidates need to be well-versed in different fitness routines.
To succeed as a candidate, you also need to be ready to endure the physical demands of zero-gravity training which happens up to 40 times a day.
Mentally speaking, claustrophobia needs to be the last thing on your mind. This is because there’s very little interaction with humans out in space. As such, the earlier you’re able to learn to survive without making contact without people over extended periods, the smoother you’ll find the entire experience. To ensure that you’re ready for lengthy missions, NASA makes a point of getting you to practice various drills with international mission partners.
Understandably, many people started dreaming about becoming astronauts shortly after the Moon landing in 1969. With 50 years having passed since then, it’s only right that we stroke the embers back to life. There’s nothing better to help you do this than our limited edition collection of Apollo 11 AR Notebook.
Other than providing you with a creative outlet to jot down the wonderful ideas in your head and documenting events as they unroll, these notebooks are specially designed to give you that nostalgic feeling about 500 million live onlookers felt as Armstrong and his crew touched down on the Moon. Be sure to check them out in our store!