Astronauts are trained to be able to perform multiple tasks while on a mission, including piloting the spacecraft, working in space, and conducting scientific research. Before taking part in the first mission, astronauts go through extensive, multi-year training to ensure they are prepared for all possibilities, which is very physically demanding.
The main types of astronauts are mission specialists – who are in charge of scientific research, flight engineers – who carry out the technical tasks on the spacecraft, and pilots.
Starting salary £40,000
Senior position £60,000 to £80,000+
While on Earth, working hours are very irregular, with long and extensive training time, including long periods of time being away from home. During a space mission astronauts can be in space for usually six months at a time.
While it is hard to become an astronaut, most institutions only require you to have a master’s degree in STEM related fields, like physics, astronomy, biology, engineering and many more, and look for candidates with a varied skillset and physical abilities.
Skills Valued by Employers
- Being able to perform arduous physical activities, including being proficient at swimming
- Ability to drive a car (possession of drivers licence)
- Ability to work under stress
- Ability to solve technical problems by applying specialist technical knowledge
- Risk management
- Experience in working as a team
- For UK and EU citizens, ESA opens their vacancies for Astronaut positions close to every 10 years, with most recent applications closing in 2021
- NASA opens its applications every four to five years, last being in 2020/21 as well, but requires a U.S. citizenship
- In the future it is expected that SpaceX might open its own programme for astronauts