ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Occupational Duties of Astronauts

Updated on June 25, 2013
Astronauts Ron Garan and Stephanie Shierholz
Astronauts Ron Garan and Stephanie Shierholz | Source

© 2013 by Aurelio Locsin.

The glamour of the astronaut profession comes from exploring uncharted territory and the chance to do something new everyday. The fun derives from floating in weightlessness and gazing at the large blue Earth. Supporting these highly publicized extremes are everyday duties that these space professionals must perform, which differs by job specialty.


Pilot astronauts guide spacecraft to their destinations, such as to Earth orbit, and back down to a landing. They can become commanders of space missions, who are are responsible for the safety of passengers, crew and cargo, which are called payloads. Their primary responsibility is the safe and efficient functioning of their vehicles, but they often help with other missions, such as deploying satellites using remote manipulator arms or participating in space walks to repair ship systems.

Mission Specialists

Mission specialists perform the tasks assigned to a particular space flight. They may conduct experiments with plant reproduction in weightlessness, launch satellites, or observe and record solar phenomenon. They oversee living conditions by monitoring crew health, managing food and oxygen supplies, and initiating exercises to maintain bone and muscle mass. As such they require knowledge of specific shuttle systems, such as electrical systems, and must maintain and repair those systems. They help payload specialists fulfill their missions.

Payload Specialists

While pilots and mission specialists work for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, payload specialists do not. They may be scientists, engineers, employees of private companies or foreign nationals with specialized duties. They generally accompany payloads, which ultimately defines their responsibilities. For example, engineers may test the strength of synthetic materials in weightlessness while communications specialists repair satellites for a phone company.


Astronaut candidates need at least a bachelor’s degree in engineering, science or math. They also require at least three years of related experience showing increasing responsibility, although advanced degrees can make up for actual work. A master’s degree equals one year of experience and a doctoral degree equals three years. In addition, pilot candidates must have at least 1,000 hours of command experience in jet aircraft. Astronauts must be between 62 and 75 inches tall, visual acuity correctable to 20/20 in each eye and blood pressure that is less than 140/90 as measured while sitting. Applicants, who are not sponsored by other countries, must also be U.S. citizens. However, those with U.S. dual citizenship can also apply. Finalists then go through a weeklong regimen of personal interviews, medical exams and orientation. Those selected for employment must then successfully pass a background investigation.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • vespawoolf profile image


      5 years ago from Peru, South America

      This is a profession I've never considered, although my husband dreams of gazing upon the big blue planet. : ) Very interesting...thanks!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Interesting and informative read into the specific job responsibilities of a space crew. Thanks for adding to my knowledge.

      Voted up and interesting.

    • Kasman profile image


      5 years ago from Bartlett, Tennessee

      I really did like this hub. I'm a space enthusiast as it is in terms of science fiction and the thoughts of what takes place outside of our own atmosphere. I really liked the understanding of how the crew has to operate and the mechanics that go with working in a group this way. Great job Alocsin, voting up. Sharing!

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I'm always looking for a new angle, Billybuc ;)

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      5 years ago from Chicago Area

      Just another day on the International Space Station. :) I think we're so awed by the opportunity to go into space that we forget it's a career and a job. Hey, I totally get it. I've been in the advertising arena for years which people tend to glamorize, too. Yep, it's a job, trust me. Thanks for sharing a little bit of reality.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Very interesting, Aurelio. I see you are now moving to another specialty niche, which I am constantly suggesting to my readers. Well done my friend.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)