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The Making of a Space Station Astronaut
06.14.03
 
It can take up to two years of training to become a fully qualified astronaut. An astronaut candidate must first learn the basics of the space shuttle and the International Space Station, as well as how to be part of a team by doing such things as flying the NASA T-38 training jets.

Expedition 4 Flight Engineer Dan Bursch trains for his mission. After completing astronaut candidate training, an astronaut will need another 18 months of training to learn how to live and work aboard the space station. Expedition crewmembers must learn about all the systems on the space station, like the electrical and communications systems. This training is done at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, and the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia. Astronauts may also go to Canada to learn how to work with the space station's robotic arm, the Canadarm2, if they'll need to use the arm during their mission.

After spending many hours in classrooms, astronauts work in a mock-up of the real space station to practice what they have learned -- these are called simulations. Expedition crewmembers do dozens of simulations, both in Russia and the U.S., during their 18 months of training.

Crewmembers also learn how to do experiments for scientists on Earth, how to take pictures of our planet and how to do educational demonstrations for schoolchildren. Crewmembers may also learn how to do spacewalks, so they can work outside the space station.

Overall, an Expedition crewmember spends almost 1800 hours training for a mission to the space station. This time includes approximately 330 hours learning about U.S. space station systems, 350 hours learning about the Russian space station systems and the Soyuz spacecraft, 400 hours learning to do spacewalks (300 in U.S. spacesuits and 100 in Russian spacesuits), 65 hours of medical training, 150 hours of science experiment training, 300 hours of language training, and 200 hours of robotic arm training.

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NASA Johnson Space Center
Houston, Texas