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Duties Of An Astronaut And Application Process

Updated on May 3, 2016
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish has spent 30 years working in medicine, psychology, STEM instruction, and aerospace education for Active USAF Civil Air Patrol.


Test Pilots and New Astronauts

The US Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook (OO) site and handbook has not caught up with the emerging space industries yet, since it does not list "Astronaut" as a job, as previous editions provided.

The OO will need to do add th hob of astronaut in the near future, because SpaceX already has a schedule of several dozen manned commercial flights listed from 2012 through 2017 (That's just as of June 2012).

In addition, as of June 11, 2012 NASA had openings for 15 astronaut candidates and had already received 6,000 applications.

SpaceX achievements are just the beginning of NASA's Commercial Crew, which began to form in the 2000s. Many individuals through that US space flight was over when the last shuttle landed, by they had not been aware of the Commercial Crew of companies. However, SpaceX delivered a replacement for the US Space Shuttle in early 2014 and other companies are offering their own designs for consideration.

The job entry for Test Pilot was eliminated, but the job of testing spacecraft will take on other titles in the future.

In the 1950s, some of the best test pilots in this country joined the first classes of astronauts. Just sixty years later in the 2010s, Aerospace Engineers (AEs) test spacecraft and some of these AEs will likely join the new classes of astronauts forming in private companies and in the NASA-Private Sector partnership established in 2011.

Aerospace and Avionics Technicians will also be needed, so some astronauts will be involved in aerospace and the specialty tasks of various branches of engineering and possess academic certifications from Associates to PhD. Electrical Engineering is important to space flight, for instance, and several US astronauts have earned PhD degrees in this discipline in the past.

Test Pilot Chuck Yeager with his X-1. First pilot to break the sound barrier.
Test Pilot Chuck Yeager with his X-1. First pilot to break the sound barrier.

What Is An Aerodynamicist Astronaut?

A New Career: Aerodynamicist

A new aerospace related career title for the 2010s is an occupation that takes on advanced duties similar to test pilot: the Avionics Engineer. Another such new job profession is Aerodynamicist.

These two positions position may enable a qualified job candidate to become a private sector astronaut.

Sample Qualifications for Aerodynamicist from Scaled Composites job listings:

In General:

  • Knowledge of aircraft sizing, performance, and stability & control.
  • Applicant should have a complete understanding of fluid dynamic technical principles, theories, concepts and CFD design/analysis methods.

Tasks, noninclusive:

  • Performance analysis, stability & control work, basic aircraft sizing, CFD grid generation, aerodynamic and propulsion CFD design, analysis of internal and external flow and post-processing of CFD solutions.
  • Must complete a variety of conceptual and preliminary design CFD studies in a thorough, imaginative, and practical manner, as well as document and present results.
  • Familiarity with aero tools including: Fluent, vortex lattice codes, DATCOM, Hoerner, and airfoil design tools is desired.


  • Mandatory BS in Aerospace Engineering. MS is a plus.
  • A minimum of three years directly related aircraft work experience required.
  • Pilot, aircraft homebuilding, rapid prototyping, and hands-on experience with composites part fabrication and assembly processes are a strong plus. (Note: As an astronaut, many candidates will likely require a pilot's license and a number of flight hours.)
  • DOD Secret Clearance is a strong plus.

It is clear that certain of the aerospace related occupations will require substantial education, training, and experience.

Who Is The NASA Astronaut?

Previous/Current "NASA Astronaut" Requirements and Duties

It is feasible that NASA may continue to recruit and train astronauts for its private sector partners, as least in the first years of partnership.

College Degree Requirement - At least a Bachelors in any of:

  1. Engineering
  2. Biological science
  3. Physical science
  4. Mathematics
  5. Clinical Psychology, Physiological Psychology, or Experimental Psychology

An advanced degree of MS or PhD is a plus.

Mandatory Experience:

  • At least 3 years of related, progressively responsible, professional experience OR at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft.
  • An advanced degree is desirable and may be substituted for experience as follows: master’s degree = 1 year of experience, doctoral degree = 3 years of experience.

Physical Requirements:

  • Must pass the space flight physical.
  • Must have distant and near visual acuity: Must be correctable to 20/20, each eye.
  • Blood pressure not to exceed 140/90 measured in a sitting position.
  • Standing height between 62 and 75 inches (5' 2" to 6' 3").

Job Duties Aboard the ISS:

  1. Assembly and on-orbit operations of the ISS, including extravehicular activities (EVA), robotics operations via remote manipulator system, experiment operations, and onboard maintenance tasks.
  2. Use of detailed knowledge of the ISS systems and operational characteristics, mission requirements and objectives, and supporting systems and equipment for each experiment on their assigned missions.
  3. Performance in Long-Duration Missions of 3 to 6 months, each mission training to take 2 to 3 years.
  4. Extensive travel, long periods away in International nations, and flights on the Russian Soyuz vehicle.

Many of the four men and four women in the NASA astronaut class of 2013 possess multiple advanced educational degrees. These people are training to travel to Mars for exploration and colonization.

For The Near Future: Warp Speed In Development Stage

Private Sector Partnerships and Leadership

NASA completed a massive amount of preparatory work before the final launch of the last active US Space Shuttle during Independence Week 2011. Immediately afterward, private space flight pushed forward to take the place of our space shuttles within the NASA Commercial Crew. By May 2012, SpaceX had docked a ship with the International Space Station and signed additional contracts for transport of cargo and crews.

The private sector will consistently make changes to the old job descriptions and qualifications for Astronaut and create new occupations as needed.

Mining Engineering, Surveying, Architecture

Some astronauts will need degrees in Mining Engineering, Surveying, Architecture, and similar, to allow them to work in engineering and engineering technologies in near-Earth orbit. These individuals will work either on ships traveling to asteroids near Earth or in installations from which they will control the activities of unmanned vehicles and the mining equipment that will offload from them onto these asteroids.

These projects will first occur under the supervision of a partnership among Google alumni, James Cameron and others, who formed a group in 2012 to begin space mining.

Initial site surveys on asteroids and the first mineral extractions will likely be done with the help of computer controlled cameras and geological simulation software, followed by the use of remote controlled mining machinery. Information Technology will be a foundation discipline in this work as well.

Moon Exploration

Earth's moon became the target for renewed exploration beginning in 2013 a contest held by Google.

The first new Lunar Landers were ready for the moon in early 2013 in the Google LunarX Prize. From 2018 - 2025, we will see additional unmanned landings on Mars and the first manned space flight to that planet. Next will come mining of the Asteroid Belt beyond Mars.

Other private companies plan to operate tours beyond the Asteroid Belt to the outer planets. Preparing humans for long-term space travel will require physical and mental training and a contingent of Earth-side and traveling medical personnel. In fact, Travel Nursing will be kicked up a notch as a popular profession before mid-century.

Many astronauts of the past have already possessed degrees in Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, so logic says that additional engineering specialties will be used and a range of engineering technicians will be required in these projects as well.

Commercial Space Stations And Mars Habitats

Living and working accommodations in space between Earth and the Moon, on or near Mars, and near the Asteroid Belt were on the drawing board since the beginning of the 21st Century. Habitat contests like the Google LunarX Prize for moon landers were established to spark interest in the private sector business arena and among graduate students.

These types of prizes were a success in spurring the creation of SpaceShipOne and SpaceShipTwo faster, more efficiently, and with greater safety than previously managed in the US Shuttle Program. These prizes have resulted in moon landers ready to go in early 2013 instead of late 2015. Space habitats will likely be ready faster than expected as well.

The Bigelow Commercial Space Station was the first to be built as a prototype on Earth.

Message From James Cameron on Moon 2.0


Bigelow Aerospace Space Stations

Bigelow Aerospace and SpaceX have their own partnership to design, manufacture, and operate space stations and spacecraft in the 2010s.

Th Bigelow-SpaceX partnership involves providing transportation via the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to near-Earth orbit space station habitats provided by Bigelow Aerospace. The target market is the International customer, outside of the USA and largely in China and Japan. At the same time, SpaceX perfected its Dragon 2 spacecraft in early 2014 to replace the US Space Shuttle that became obsolete several years previously.

The BA 330 by Bigelow is an inflatable living environment of 330 cubic meters that will support six adults. Another model is called Sundancer. Bigelow will launch and connect two or more BA 330s into orbit and rent them to national space agencies, private companies, and universities for work and living space. Bigelow also plans a line of space hotels based on the BA 330 or other modular spaces.

First Station Module, Experimental, in place 2011 - 2013

Tiangong 1, meaning "Heavenly Place."
Tiangong 1, meaning "Heavenly Place." | Source

Chinese Space Station Not Alone

The Shenzhou 9 spacecraft returned to Earth with its three astronauts in late June, 2012. This is only the 4th manned space mission for China, but it included the country's first female astronaut, the 33-year-old fighter pilot called Liu Yang.

With the end of the International Space Station in 2020, China plans to launch their own in 2020, being the only station in orbit in the 2020s - except for the Bigelow commercial stations, which the Chinese government may not have been expecting.

Other nations will likely be renting those, so China will not be the only nation in orbit, not the only one with space influence as other nations mine near-Earth asteroids and travel to Mars.

Astronauts Work In Space Mining

Astronaut Positions On Mining Expeditions

From a vantage point in the 2010s, it is easy to see that the standard spacecraft to be employed through mid-century will be able to transport a five-person or a seven-person space crew. Additional engineers, technicians, and interns will be in increasingly high demand to make this happen.

US Spacecraft Crew positions, in order of importance:

  1. Commander
  2. Pilot/Flight Engineer
  3. Mission Specialists
  4. Payload Specialists

Commercial space flights may list a more diverse set of positions, although a commander and a pilot likely will be necessary.

Mission Specialists for the former NASA/US Space Shuttle: Coordinated with the commander and pilot and had responsibility for operations in:

  • Systems
  • Crew activity planning
  • Consumables usage
  • Experiment/payload operations

Payload Specialists for the former NASA/US Space Shuttle: First pick was from among current Mission Specialists. Otherwise, there were individuals besides NASA astronauts that were assigned specialized on-board duties. They were included in crew sizes greater than 5. In commercial spaceflight, this position may be retained, eliminated or expanded in duties.

© 2012 Patty Inglish MS


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Thank you, I shall do so.

    • elijahtruth profile image


      8 years ago from texas

      Fred Stone, I have heard that name, I may look him up and study him some what, thank you! Have you examined the Targum page on the main website??? It speaks of the proof our Lord Jesus wanted His children taught before His epic return, if you look also to Revelation 14:1-3 you will see who inherits earth along with many others I pray, but it is those who know how to sing the new song, which is Science, as shown on the Targum page and the Proof in painting and verse of His healing page, you dear Lady are well versed in the new song / Medical Science Rev:21:4... go again to the Adam and Eve in Action blog and see the new songs epic purpose ending sickness and ageing... Respect

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      The preacher Fred Stone often has these types of visions and premonitions of national importance and has also been in contact with several White House administrations.

      During the premonition I had, my spine felt as if it had turned to ice. I was being pushed by a parent in the direction that would lead to eventual astronaut work and I received a string of related mail about it. The premonition hit when I opened the final letter. I will never forget it. Bless God I had the sense to pay attention.

    • elijahtruth profile image


      8 years ago from texas

      I received revelation on both shuttle disasters, both tragic, but the school teacher I said to everyone she must be stopped, why does none know the world celebration and constant speaking of the greatness of that shuttle launch was a prelude to the first and worst shuttle disaster, I seen it exploding each time I saw the strong face of the school teacher who had yes won a trip to history! The second shuttle disaster I notified washington and elect of many Religions, only as we know the shuttle exploded into history! I felt after the first shuttle disaster and my knowing its end, when the Lord gave me premonition of its end I had to speak! What Love our Lord has for Patty Inglish, giving her foresight, wanting her to be part of the coming Genesis of Life on earth! Thank you for bringing me into rememberence this day, showing me I am not alone Joel 2:28... Respect

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Peggy W - It was one of the strongest premonitions I've ever had. Whenever I hear of injuries or deaths related to the space program, the memory of the premonition comes back full force. I am sorry good people like Charles and our departed astronauts are lost in aviation and aeronautics.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Patty,

      Your premonition must have been a searing one to stop you from going forward with your aspirations of becoming an astronaut.

      Yes...had Charles lived, I am sure that he would have been a terrific asset to space exploration and the world in general. His intelligence was only exceeded by his thoughtfulness, kindness, gentlemanly manners and joy of life. He literally lit up a room when he entered with smiling faces because of his presence.

      Thank you again for writing this most interesting hub!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      elijahtruth - I heard someone say yesterday that aging is a thing of the past, and so it shall be I think.

      We really are exploring the deepest parts of the ocean now and the space from the moon to the Asteroid Belt. Wonders are emerging that some do not want to see, but others are eager for them. Some really are looking for God in these places and others, meaning for their lives. Thanks for reading an posting your comments!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Hi CyberShelley - within the next five years, I think we will have a noticeable upsurge in aerospace related jobs. It's an exciting time I thought would not occur for many years yet.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Peggy W - Your Navy pilot must have been quite a guy and I am sorry he was lost so young. That makes me sad and I'm sure he'd have done well in the astronaut program - the candidates have all been like superheros.

      I've been sharing developments in our space program and commercial aerospace business as much as possible, because I hear many people saying that we have none of either. As early as 2007, some of these contracts were put into place and something new is happening in the Commercial Crew and NASA every day - also in the partnerships among NASA and other space agencies. Sometime between 2015 and 2017 we are going to have at least one commercial space station in orbit. Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke would have loved to have been here to see it.

      Thanks for the vote and the Best award. This Hub is important to me, too. I could have become an astronaut and did not, because of a premonition; but I would go up today if given the chance.

    • elijahtruth profile image


      8 years ago from texas

      Received notification that Patty Inglish had developed another Hub on Space exploration so I had to see, me passing by many notifications each week, but not this one! As always very interesting and well designed is this Hub, James Cameron can truly call himself an explorer since his daring plung into the depts of the ocean, so his word is meaningful on the subject of discovery and research, so this again is informative and insightful Word from Patty Inglish who casts her shadow over the Earth!

      Patty have you seen our new information on the end of ageing? Go to the link at the cure is at hand..... Much Respect ElijahTruth

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 

      8 years ago

      Fabulous, in depth descriptions for the bright, hard working, career seeking high school graduates. Or people like me, who are just plain interested. Voted up and awesome

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Patty,

      Astronauts whether trained at NASA or elsewhere around the world will be in high demand in the upcoming years. You greatly added to my base of knowledge in reading this. I had no idea that the company Google was so involved with space exploration for instance. The mining of asteroids, etc. makes perfect sense.

      My first love was a Navy pilot who had an engineering degree and was already accepted into the preliminary stages of becoming an astronaut. He was killed in a naval airflight accident. We were talking of marriage. That was an early trauma in my life. I was just finishing up my RN training at the time.

      This definitely gets my very first award for best answered question! Up votes + sharing with my followers, tweeting and sending to FB. Thanks for all of your hard work on this hub.


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