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NASA Space Science

Do You Have the Right Stuff To Be an Astronaut? 229

Posted by samzenpus
from the to-the-moon dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Do you have what it takes to become an astronaut? NASA, the world's leader in space and aeronautics, is now hiring outstanding scientists, engineers, and other talented professionals until January 27, 2012 for full time, permanent employment to carry forward the great discovery process that its mission demands. 'Creativity. Ambition. Teamwork. A sense of daring. And a probing mind.' To qualify, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree in science, engineering or mathematics. Certain degrees are immediate disqualifiers, including nursing, social sciences, aviation, exercise physiology, technology, and some psychology degrees, too. The job listing mandates '1,000 hours pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft' unless you have three years of 'related, progressively responsible, professional experience' like being an astronaut somewhere else maybe? 'Since astronauts will be expected to fly on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft, they must fit Russia's physical requirements for cosmonauts. That means no one under 5 foot 2 inches or over 6 foot 3 inches.' Applicants brought in for interviews will be measured to make sure they meet the job application's 'anthropometric requirements.' You'll need to pass a drug test, a comprehensive background check, a swimming test, and have 20/20 vision in each eye and it almost goes without saying that candidates will need to be in 'incredible shape.' Applicants must pass NASA's long-duration space flight physical, which evaluates individuals based on 'physical, physiological, psychological, and social' stressors, like one's ability to work in small, confined spaces for hours on end. And of course...'Frequent travel may be required.'"
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Do You Have the Right Stuff To Be an Astronaut?

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  • by InterestingFella (2537066) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @08:14PM (#38466632)
    I'm not sure if I'm a good astronaut, but I'm hell of a good guy to design space shuttles. I've been playing Kerbal Space Program [kerbalspaceprogram.com] lately so I know this stuff. If someone is a good astronaut contact me!
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You mean like diapers, mace, a bb-gun, duct tape and a hammer?
      • by 2.7182 (819680) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @09:05PM (#38467058)
        You sir are spreading nonsensical and malicious rumors about our astronauts. The astronaut we are discussing did not have any duct tape, on her person or in the trunk of her car parked at the airport. I think you are confusing it with the surgical tubing and/or the folding knife.
    • by datavirtue (1104259) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @10:51PM (#38467788)

      NASA has a management system that is proven defunct. I wouldn't want to risk it souring my resume. Not very attractive. When your management and bureaucracy is bad enough to kill people it kind of drains out the incentive. I want to spend my life with a smart company and team enthralled with the prospect of surviving on their raw success. Bureaucracies survive because of status quo and tax payer windfall. You can keep it. If you have ever worked in a bureaucracy AND a real business you know the difference. In a bureaucracy people go through the motions and typically loath their job, in a thriving business people are alive with the smell of opportunity constantly perking their eyes--save for a massive corporation. That is why startups are so attractive.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by demachina (71715)

        Exactly right. Mod parent up.

        Most of NASA's astronauts are resigning because the one and only thing they are going to be doing the rest of this decade is flying to the ISS and spin around in LEO for extended periods. They will mostly be playing janitor and physiology lab rat assuming they can even get one of the precious few available slots.

        SpaceX is a lot more interesting place to be an astronaut now. They will be working on Dragon, new launchers and aiming for Mars, instead of being a paying passenger in

      • by yurtinus (1590157)
        Right, because "former astronaut" looks great on a resume *until* you list that you were one of those gosh darned NASA astronauts...
    • If someone is a good astronaut contact me!

      Hi,

      I'm Kevin Spacey. As you can see from my picture [freakingnews.com], I'm a good astronaut!

      I'm available for Soyuz missions on most weekdays, but I have little league commitments every second weekend, and I like to head back home after 5pm if possible during the week. So call me, and let's get this thing off the ground for the new year!

  • Hmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 22, 2011 @08:17PM (#38466648)

    Just finished a box of Kraft Dinner and I'm sitting here reading Slashdot... go ahead and mark a 'no' down for me.

  • Too bad they only hire the best of the best. Even if they'd send 1.000 people into space, it'd still wouldn't be enough to have any statistically significant chance of being accepted.
    • by hodet (620484) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @09:11PM (#38467124)
      Now remember son... "“No matter how good you are at something, there's always about a million people better than you.” - Homer J Simpson.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 22, 2011 @08:20PM (#38466680)

    Really? How do your 'astronots' get into space again these days? Oh....yeah. Hope that stings.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Really? How do your 'astronots' get into space again these days? Oh....yeah. Hope that stings.

      Come on, which company doesn't outsources these days?

  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @08:21PM (#38466684)

    NASA, the world's leader in space and aeronautics

    Say what?

    In case you haven't noticed, NASA is the FORMER leader in space and aeronautics. Space access is now a Russian and European affair, and the Chinese are getting in the game. But the US dropped the ball: NASA is just an administration dedicated to sink money down the drain these days...

    • by AndrewNeo (979708) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @08:28PM (#38466720) Homepage

      Maybe if they /had/ the money to sink down the drain we wouldn't be having this problem..

      • by masternerdguy (2468142) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @09:00PM (#38467032)
        There's a sick cosmic irony in flying to space on the rockets of your former competitors. Considering the cool stuff NASA was doing with Apollo there isn't an excuse for not having a moon base by now.
        • There's a sick cosmic irony in flying to space on the rockets of your former competitors. Considering the cool stuff NASA was doing with Apollo there isn't an excuse for not having a moon base by now.

          Actually, it's the same good excuse as for why nobody has built a permanent underwater city yet... not economically viable. Sure, we could do it, but, why? Actually, I believe that if we said "damn the accountants" and did it anyway (Lunar or undersea), we'd get a good ROI from all the spinoff from the R&D required to pull it off - that's how it worked developing heavy lift ICBMs with a "for all mankind" glossy PR campaign painted on them.

      • by timeOday (582209)
        Actually NASA's funding has been very stable [thethinkerblog.com] for the last 40 years.
        • Compare NASA's budget to the US Defense Budget. Stable nothing is still nothing.
          • by Baloroth (2370816)

            I wish I could get even a small quantity of that "nothing." A nothing which funded hundreds of shuttle launches, both Voyager probes, several Mars probes, and dozens of miscellaneous projects. Amazing what nothing can get you these days.

            Also, $15 billion (a year) isn't "nothing" even in congressional spending terms. One of the most expensive and advanced aircraft in the world (the F-22) cost only ~4 years at that budget. And that was stock full of pork.

            Of course I would love to see them have more. Just poi

            • Just pointing out that even for the US budget $15+ billion is a fair bit.

              I guess if .4% is a fair bit (15/3456 2010 budget).

    • by Trepidity (597)

      I suppose it depends on what you include. NASA is still a pretty strong first, with the European Space Agency in second, when it comes to scientific research in space, e.g. sending probes to other planets, the Hubble space telescope, etc.

    • by rubycodez (864176)
      yeah, I hate it those Russians and Europeans announcing all those super-earth and earth-sized worlds around other stars. And while we can only dream of having sent probes to all the planets like they have.
    • by Alomex (148003) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @09:08PM (#38467082) Homepage

      This is ANSI approved American chauvinism. It is standard practice to call anything American "the best in the world" without any data to back it up. Furthermore, if you dare question it you are considered "unpatriotic".

      For example, traditionally people say that the USA armed forces are "the best fighting force in the world". While certainly the best equipped and nothing to sneer at, over the last 70 years the title "best fighting force" squarely belongs to the Viet Minh army which defeated, in sequence, the much superior armies of Japan and Vichy France (World War II), the French Republic (first Indochina war), the French Republic again (second Indochina war), the USA (Vietnam war) and the Chinese army (third Indochina war, admittedly considered a draw by some).

      If you were to bring up that point at a bar, you might as well save time and ask for a wedgie to begin with.

    • by Nyeerrmm (940927)

      I'm not sure I follow. While NASA is certainly having issues, none of the other programs are particularly stronger.

      Russia: Riding the coat-tails of good design decisions many years ago (not that there's anything wrong with that, I wish we had a Soyuz-like design). Soyuz is simple and reliable and they can just keep on flying them without significant development costs. However, as indicated by their recent Mars probe their new development efforts have unfortunately decayed -- GRUNT suffered from not enough

    • In case you haven't noticed, NASA is the FORMER leader in space and aeronautics

      I think you're taking a VERY narrow view of what national space agencies does. Yes, in terms of manned space flight, we've fallen a bit behind (though certainly not out of the game with future capsules in play). However, as some other posters mentioned, we are still doing a lot in terms of actual aeronautics and space exploration. The Mars probes and operation of the space station are the best known, but there's still a who
    • I suppose you can divide NASA into two parts. On one hand, NASA is the leader of space exploration through satellite instrumentation and planetary robotics. On the other, the more sexy, manned space exploration such orbital mission, space labs, and men landing on the moon. I would say NASA's ability to excel on the first part exceeds any the shortcomings of the second part. It seems almost every day now how many discoveries NASA is able to make like never before.

    • by hjf (703092)

      Argentina (yes) is getting to space too! We're supposed to launch some rocket (Tronador II they call it. 28m high or something) next year.

      As an argentinian, I'll believe it when I see it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 22, 2011 @08:25PM (#38466706)

    That means no one under 5 foot 2 inches or over 6 foot 3 inches

    Discrimination! I'm in the "best of the best", but at 6'7" excluded by this requirement. Dwarves may have legislation banning unreasonable discrimination against them, but us giants are people too!

  • Small Print (Score:5, Funny)

    by jaylen (59655) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @08:25PM (#38466708)

    Small print at the bottom of the job advertisement -

    'Astronaut must show ability to hold out right-hand with thumb up, and know enough Russian to 'ask for a lift.'

    • by gman003 (1693318)

      know enough Russian to 'ask for a lift.'

      "Odin jezda na kosmose, pozalujsta. Spasibo."

      (I'm probably massacring that, and await the thousand irate Slavic Slashdotters bickering over my declensions)

  • GATTACA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mhajicek (1582795) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @08:26PM (#38466714)
    You'd just about have to be genetically engineered to make those requirements.
    • Came here to post this as well. And to think my mod points expired yesterday. Sorry I couldn't mod you up.

    • I think the same thing
    • No, not really. Unless LASIK disqualifies, having natural 20/20 vision and a hight requirement will be the most likely limiting generic factors. Other then that, almost any one Slashdot can be physically fit and well educated enough to get a bachelors of science degree. All you need is a driven personality to make that happen. For example, a childhood dream you really want to turn into reality.

      As for myself? I don't have the required degree and my 20/20 is starting to fade as I get older. So count me out. I

  • applicants (Score:5, Funny)

    by Espectr0 (577637) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @08:29PM (#38466742) Journal

    20/20 vision? Incredible shape? This is slashdot, that means none of us qualify.

  • by Tastecicles (1153671) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @08:30PM (#38466744)

    "Career-driven individuals wanted for out of this world opportunity. Stock options in lieu of salary, this is not a pyramid scheme"

    Weren't NASA headhunters once? Did they not have a bottomless pit for a budget? Now they have to appeal to the Geek community for talent that's otherwise wasted in gainful productive employment?

    Incidentally, I won't be applying, since I don't fit the physical profile (I'm 6 foot 8). Guess I'll have to wait until space travel (or at least LEO) is in financial reach of the Everyman.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 22, 2011 @08:32PM (#38466764)

    * The excessively flatulent need not apply.

    • by EdIII (1114411)

      * The excessively flatulent need not apply.

      Define "excessively".

      Volume?
      Frequency?
      Decibels?

  • 20/20 Vision? (Score:5, Informative)

    by camperdave (969942) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @08:35PM (#38466798) Journal
    20/20 vision? Like Daniel Burbank [spacefacts.de], Steve Frick [nasa.gov], or Don Pettit [nasa.gov]
    • by vux984 (928602)

      Distant and near visual acuity: Must be correctable to 20/20, each eye

      It only eliminates people with conditions that PREVENT them from seeing 20/20 WITH correction.

      So your coke-bottle glasses are just fine, as long as you can see 20/20 while wearing them.

  • by wierd_w (1375923) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @08:35PM (#38466802)

    But I know flat out that I would never make the cut.

    Over the past year, I have grown sideways considerably.
    I also have rather pronounced astigmatism, and a mitralvalve prolapse, on top of carpel tunnel and occult gangaleon cysts in my wrists.

    I would NEVER get passed the physical.

    That said, I would have no trouble with the psychological aspects. I actually *like* confined spaces, as long as the airflow is good. Working with others could be a problem, but the hiring reqs would ensure that stupid people are disqualified, so that would be ok. If I have to explain what the words "heuristic" and "obfuscate" mean, I won't be able to work effectively with the team. Effective communication is essential for that. If they are competent, have more than a 500 word vocabulary, and are professional it is all good.

    Eventually though, NASA and ESA are going to have to send ordinary people up, if they ever intend to do any kind of space based manufacturing, or permanent space based habitats. People aren't going to like jumping through insane hurdles, just to be a space janitor. Best just to hire a regular janitor that meets some core competencies so he doesn't blow himself out an airlock or get water into an instrument panel.

    While being fit is important for space vocations, I suspect most of the fitness requirements center around looking sexy for TV. The hiring guidelines for astronauts in the US and Russia were created during the biggest PR penis waving contest of the last century, and being sexy for cameras was very important for political reasons. I suspect there is a very large amount of beaurocratic inertia on those guidelines, and that many of the physical fitness reqs are not actually necessary for the job, but have been retained because being too picky is less troublesome than getting new guidelines through regulatory approval.

    • by darth dickinson (169021) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @08:44PM (#38466912) Homepage

      While being fit is important for space vocations, I suspect most of the fitness requirements center around looking sexy for TV. The hiring guidelines for astronauts in the US and Russia were created during the biggest PR penis waving contest of the last century, and being sexy for cameras was very important for political reasons. I suspect there is a very large amount of beaurocratic inertia on those guidelines, and that many of the physical fitness reqs are not actually necessary for the job, but have been retained because being too picky is less troublesome than getting new guidelines through regulatory approval.

      Have you ever tried to breathe while your extra 40 pounds of belly fat are pressing against your diaphragm at 4 Gs? Heck, the centrifuge-type ride at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville had me struggling to breathe, and I'm sure it doesn't pull nearly that many Gs.

      • by wierd_w (1375923)

        If it is anything like breathing under 6ft of water through a hose, I can do it. *shrug*

      • by subreality (157447) on Friday December 23, 2011 @05:56AM (#38469586)

        Space Academy survivor here - It pulls 3 Gs.

        I'm pretty far off to one end of the nerd-jock spectrum. I had no problems breathing, but it was interesting being barely able to lift my own arms: I couldn't lift them directly from my sides and had to increase leverage by bending them at the elbow and then pushing like a bench press.

        While I don't think they need top-notch athletes, I can definitely say that physical fitness in the top few percentiles is a reasonable requirement for the job. There's no way I could reach up to punch an abort button in less than a second if it was necessary during launch.

    • "While being fit is important for space vocations, I suspect most of the fitness requirements center around looking sexy for TV."

      For a supposedly smart person you are extremely ignorant of the physical rigors of high velocity travel.
      • by retchdog (1319261) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @10:03PM (#38467514) Journal

        nonsense! i've been traveling at about 66,000mph for decades. it isn't that hard.

      • by wierd_w (1375923)

        You mean high delta-v travel. Not high velocity travel. When not accellerating or decellerating, there would be no noteworthy g-stresses on the body.

        This is actually part of the problem with bone and muscle deterioration. Freefall induced microgravity actually *reduces* riggors on the body which promote healthy muscle and bone tissue. It is actually the pressure against bones and muscles caused by exerting them in a gravity well which keeps bones dense. A few studies with genetically bone atrophied mice

        • by biovoid (785377)

          You mean high delta-v travel. Not high velocity travel.

          How exactly are you going achieve the high velocity without accelerating?

          • by wierd_w (1375923)

            Velocity does not imply accelleration. Accelleration does imply velocity.

            Example: you are sitting in your chair. You are not experiencing accelleration. You are however, traveling at very high velocity. The earth is rotating, is orbiting the sun, and the sun is in turn orbiting galactic center. You are moving at fantastic velocities. You do not percieve any G-forces, because you are not experiencing delta-v.

            This is why the above post is modded informative.

            Delta-v is a function which measures CHANGE of

    • I suspect most of the fitness requirements center around looking sexy for TV

      And minor issues like surviving the launch, not having your muscles and bones deteriorate too much due to micro gravity, surviving re-enrty after said deterioration...

      Having to send up 3 janitors because the first two died is not very economical, nor is paying for excess fuel because the personnel ate too many pies.

      • by wierd_w (1375923)

        Assuming said "joe ordinary" janitor does not weigh 250lbs, and does not have high bloodpressure, he would not "die on takeoff".

        As for the deterioration, I think you could benefit from re-reading my post, and doing some research. I specifically said long term habitation. A long term habitat would actively take measures to prevent such deterioration. Recent studies in anamal models shows that microtrauma to skeletal and muscle tissues are what stave off atrophy. See for instance, this study from 07.

        http:/ [nih.gov]

  • Disqualifiers...? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 22, 2011 @08:35PM (#38466808)

    "Certain degrees are immediate disqualifiers".... TFA says that those degrees aren't qualifiers, not that they are disqualifiers. I'm sure if you had a degree in nursing AND a degree in a qualifying field, you wouldn't be disqualified...

  • by JoeMerchant (803320) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @08:36PM (#38466818) Homepage

    Short answer: no.

    Longer answer:

    A) are you a military pilot with thousands of hours in high-performance jets? If not, forget anything resembling a "pilot" seat.

    B) do you regularly publish world-class scientific papers, travel the world on exotic geology expeditions, and run highly successful educational programs all across the world? Or, any three or four similar accomplishments, before age 25... If not, you're not competitive in the "outstanding scientist" category.

    C) are you a talented engineer or other professional? If so, you're more valuable on the ground than in front of the world television spotlight.

    Sorry to be cynical, when I was 6 years old (1973) "astronaut" was a valid answer to the "what do you want to be when you grow up?" question. In 1973, space travel seemed like it was "going places," but, so far, it hasn't. You would have been much more realistic if you aspired to be a NFL quarterback or highly recognized movie star starting at age 6 in 1973.

    Let's hope things are better than they seem for the future of space travel, now nearly 40 years later.

    • B) do you regularly publish world-class scientific papers, travel the world on exotic geology expeditions

      Geology is not a real science [youtube.com]

      • Uhuh, sure. You just keep on saying that... Now excuse me while I help Exxon, BP, and others continue to search for natural resources with dowsing rods. -sarcasm

      • Duh, of course geology isn't a real science. It's just a load of horsecrap.

        A real scientist studies geonomy.

    • by turing_m (1030530)

      I would think that a lot of people have a better chance of being astronauts than Hollywood A-Listers, for example. The pool of people wanting to be in the film industry is so much larger. How many people really want to be astronauts? Certainly less than most of the state of California and all those enrolled in film schools, acting classes and the like.

  • I doubt they'd take asthmatics, myopics, or those without binocular vision, much as I'd love to.

  • Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 22, 2011 @08:53PM (#38466976)

    All that, and they still allow you in if you believe in god.

  • When I submitted this story way back when: http://slashdot.org/submission/1856686/nasa-now-seeking-candidates-for-astronaut-posistio [slashdot.org]

    Now ain't that ironic? So I guess I am really at the bottom of the astronaut list . . .

  • I never thought about it before but reading this I'm surprised that I meet none of the requirements whatsoever! Not one! And I really don't think of myself as a hopeless case. Verily, these astronauts are like unto gods!
  • by santax (1541065) on Thursday December 22, 2011 @10:21PM (#38467602)
    This is racism! Else I would qualify... Besides, who better to keep em head cool when need is be. Peace out, brothers. - signed, Santax, nephew of Sanka, famous from the Jamaican bobslee team. -
  • by sqrt(2) (786011)

    I'm sure that's not even an exhaustive list of the requirements. So my question is, how did we ever find someone in the past if we've been using THAT as the bar you have to meet to be considered?

    Wouldn't it be easier to take the people who are smart and have the physical qualifications (or even just the physical potential, you could train them like soldiers do and get them into better shape) enough to do the job and then train them to do it? Seems like an absurd parody of the job market at large. Entry leve

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I worked in the MCC at JSC in the 1990s. Part of my job was installing software on the laptops taken into space and training every astronaut on the use of the software I was responsible for. That was until I pissed off the wrong astronaut and was replaced for the training aspects. Type-A is an understatement.

    For the most part they seem like regular people, except that they are driven to succeed beyond a level that is healthy for most people. Their job is a competition every second of every day with their

  • "Certain degrees are immediate disqualifiers, including nursing, social sciences, aviation, exercise physiology, technology, and some psychology degrees, too."

    Anyone know (or have a good guess) why?

  • by niktemadur (793971) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:53AM (#38468328)

    From the Tom Wolfe book, the world needs "heroes" like this, like it needs a hole in the head:

    "More fighter pilots died in automobiles than in airplanes. Fortunately, there was always some kindly soul up the chain to certify the papers `line of duty,' so that the widow could get a better break on the insurance. That was okay and only proper because somehow the system itself had long ago said Skol! and Quite right! to the military cycle of Flying & Drinking and Drinking & Driving, as if there were no other way. Every young fighter jock knew the feeling of getting two or three hours' sleep and then waking up at 5:30 a.m. and having a few cups of coffee, a few cigarettes, and then carting his poor quivering liver out to the field for another day of flying. There were those who arrived not merely hungover but still drunk, slapping oxygen tank cones over their faces and trying to burn the alcohol out of their systems, and then going up, remarking later: `I don't advise it, you understand, but it can be done. (Provided you have the right stuff, you miserable pudknocker).'" The Right Stuff (1979)

  • by Animats (122034) on Friday December 23, 2011 @01:58AM (#38468624) Homepage

    NASA still has 57 astronauts on the active list. [nasa.gov] They used to have over 100, and they probably need less than 25 at this point.

    (NASA needs to revise their web site. It still talks about flying the Space Shuttle.)

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