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Become An Astronaut

NASA astronauts have been traveling to space for more than six decades and living there continuously since 2000. Now, NASA’s Artemis program is preparing to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon. The Orion spacecraft atop the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket will carry humans farther into space than they have gone before—for missions to the Moon and eventually to Mars.

Quick Facts

Future Exploration

As NASA continues to expand human exploration in our solar system, we will need more than the currently active astronauts to crew spacecraft bound for deep-space destinations.

NASA’s astronauts currently work as scientists on the International Space Station—a laboratory that orbits Earth approximately 240 miles above the planet’s surface. Astronauts on the station conduct scientific experiments such as innovative cancer research and research on the human body and living in space.

Soon the agency will be expanding its reach to conduct scientific investigations in lunar orbit aboard the Gateway space station, and on the surface of the Moon, as part of the Artemis program. Future astronauts could serve on Artemis missions or even journey to Mars.

Featured Story

An Astronaut’s Guide to Applying to Be An Astronaut

As told by Anne McClain, NASA accepts applications for new classes of astronauts about every four years. Here’s her recommendations.…

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What Does It Take?

Astronaut requirements have changed with NASA’s goals and missions. Today, to be considered for an astronaut position, applicants must meet the following qualifications:

  1. Be a U.S. citizen
  2. Possess a master’s degree* in a STEM field, including engineering, biological science, physical science, computer science or mathematics, from an accredited institution.
  3. Have at least two years of related professional experience obtained after degree completion or at least 1,000 hours pilot-in-command time on jet aircraft.
  4. Be able to pass the NASA long-duration flight astronaut physical.

*The master’s degree requirement can also be met by:

  • Two years (36 semester hours or 54 quarter hours) of work toward a doctoral program in a related science, technology, engineering or math field.
  • A completed Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree.
  • Completion (or current enrollment that will result in completion by June 2021) of a nationally recognized test pilot school program.

Astronaut candidates must also have skills in leadership, teamwork and communications.

Artemis Generation astronauts will explore and conduct experiments where humans have never been: the lunar South Pole.

NASA’s Astronaut Selection Board reviews the applications and assesses each candidate’s qualifications. The board then invites a small group of the most highly qualified candidates for interviews at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Of those interviewed, about half are invited back for second interviews. From that group, NASA’s new astronaut candidates are selected. They report for training at Johnson and spend the next two years learning basic astronaut skills like spacewalking, operating the space station, flying T-38 jet planes and controlling a robotic arm.

With NASA’s plans for the future of exploration, new astronauts will fly farther into space than ever before on lunar missions and may be the first humans to fly on to Mars.

Expeditionary Skills

Expeditions are journeys made by people who share a definite purpose and specific experiences.

To make their expeditions successful, NASA works with astronaut crews on skills that prepare them to live and work together during space missions. Some of these same skills are useful in everyday life here on Earth. 4-H is a positive youth development program that prepares youth for life and work. Together, NASA and 4-H are creating the following series of activities designed to take you through various educational expeditions that will help you learn and practice skills that you can apply in almost every aspect of life.

Learn About Expeditionary Skills
Astronaut Peggy Whitson stands next to the Expeditionary Skills for Life logo
To make their expeditions successful, NASA works with astronaut crews on skills that prepare them to live and work together during space missions

Brief History of Astronaut Selection

The military selected the first astronauts in 1959.

The first astronauts were military personnel who had experience flying jet aircraft and backgrounds in engineering. They also had to be shorter than 5 feet 11 inches—to fit in the Mercury spacecraft. In addition to flight and engineering expertise, space exploration requires scientific knowledge and the ability to apply it. So, in 1964, NASA began searching for scientists to be astronauts. Back then, one qualification for scientist-astronauts was a doctorate in medicine, engineering or a natural science such as physics, chemistry or biology.

Learn About the History of Selecting Astronauts about Brief History of Astronaut Selection
The original seven astronauts posing during a training excercise.
Although more easily recognized in their spacesuits, these seven men are actually NASA astronauts participating in a U.S. Air Force survival school at Stead Air Force Base in Nevada in 1960. The original seven Mercury astronauts are, left to right, L. Gordon Cooper Jr.; M. Scott Carpenter; John H. Glenn Jr.; Alan B. Shepard Jr.; Virgil I. Grissom; Walter M. Schirra Jr. and Donald K. Slayton. Portions of their clothing have been fashioned from parachute material.