Within the 60 or so years that the job has existed, astronauts enjoy captured the public’s creativeness. And whereas many people might well perhaps perhaps think they enjoy some thought of what being an astronaut is like, as a result of the glut of portrayals in movies, right astronauts will enable you to grab that working for NASA is significant assorted from what you note on the show screen. In between spicy tasks like spacewalks, they favor to terror about less glamorous aspects of the job—like discovering misplaced objects that floated away and the utilize of the bathroom in microgravity.
Mental Floss spoke with two earlier NASA astronauts about the realities of preparing for and experiencing life in do. Learn on to fetch out about primarily the most stressful parts of the job, the ways they enjoy stress-free, and their appropriate opinions about astronaut food.
1. Astronauts come from a ramification of various fields.
There’s no person inform course to becoming an astronaut. If any person knows they’re desirous to be an astronaut from a young age, they need to blueprint credentials in a particular subject earlier than they might be able to acquire the eye of NASA. “They’re procuring for folks that are licensed, that map that they’re excessive-achieving militia folks or folks from civilian life, in most cases with an stepped forward stage,” Mike Massimino, a earlier NASA astronaut and professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia College, tells Mental Floss.
To be thought to be for NASA’s astronaut program, candidates need to enjoy U.S. citizenship, protect a master’s stage in a STEM subject, and enjoy as a minimal two years of linked submit-grad decent experience or as a minimal 1000 hours of pilot-in-present time on jet aircraft. Two years toward a doctoral program in STEM, a done doctor of remedy or doctor of osteopathic remedy stage, or completion of a nationally acknowledged test pilot college program are additionally celebrated in predicament of a master’s stage. Because do flight crews require diverse skill objects, the components doesn’t acquire extra explicit than that.
“I used to be once a Ph.D. research engineer professor after I used to be once picked,” Massimino says. “I’ve flown in do with engineers, with test pilots, helicopter pilots for the militia. I’ve additionally flown in do with a geologist, I’ve flown in do with an oceanographer, and I’ve flown in do with a veterinarian. So it be if truth be told varied. There might be rarely always shiny one route.”
2. Astronaut coaching involves the entirety from class work to militia survival workout routines.
Candidates celebrated into the astronaut program need to total years of coaching earlier than they’re ready for spaceflight. Lots of that coaching takes predicament within the college room and involves discovering out about assorted do vehicles and systems. Astronauts additionally endure physical coaching within the right world. In step with Garrett Reisman, earlier NASA astronaut and the director of do operations at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California, with out a doubt one of primarily the most intense programs has nothing to construct with preparing for life in do.
“We construct the same SERE [survive, evade, resist, escape] coaching that militia aviators fight through,” he tells Mental Floss. “The thought is that if you happen to fell out of an aircraft over enemy terrain, you obtained to grab live to negate the tale without relieve. It is possible you’ll perhaps perhaps perhaps favor to learn to reside off the land, what flowers you would also devour, manufacture a refuge and all this stuff.”
The T-38 jets astronauts traipse as section of their coaching enjoy ejectable seats, so landing someplace weird and wonderful is a possibility. But astronauts simplest traipse over the continental U.S., so they doubtless will no longer ever need to make utilize of the beefy extent of their SERE coaching. “What are the percentages that you just parachute down and there’s no longer a Starbucks accurate there?” Reisman jokes. “All it be a need to to construct is give me a Starbucks gift card and I’ll be magnificent.”
3. Direct is a essential section of the job.
Exercising is extra than a capability to pass time in do: It’s well-known to an astronaut’s health. The human physique isn’t extinct to inspiring around without the ability of gravity, and for this motive, all astronauts need to manufacture resistance workout routines section of their day-to-day routine.
“You construct favor to exercise two hours each and each single day exercising,” Reisman says. “Must you would nicely be up there for a truly long timeframe, you would also lose a glorious deal of your bone and your muscular tissues if you happen to construct nothing, so the formulation we acquire around that’s by doing intense resistance exercise.”
Astronauts can lose as a lot as 20 percent of their muscular tissues on an 11-day do flight as a result of the shortcoming of gravity [PDF]. But zero gravity additionally makes free weights ineffective, in uncover a change, astronauts protect their strength by the utilize of a instrument equipped with two shrimp canisters that construct a vacuum they might be able to pull against with a long bar. A bike and treadmill (with a harness) are additionally on hand on the Global Dwelling Say. Energy is required to form sure emergency procedures when the ship re-enters Earth’s gravitational subject, so staying fit in do is key.
4. Astronauts construct most of their work on Earth.
In uncover to become with out a doubt one of many few folks to drag to do, astronauts might well perhaps fair quiet be willing to construct a glorious deal of fabricate a residing from home. “A NASA astronaut’s job is largely spending your time on Earth,” Massimino says. “It is possible you’ll perhaps perhaps nicely be going to exercise the huge majority of your time on the flooring, either coaching or working on technical disorders or helping folks traipse.” At some stage in his nearly two a long time with NASA, Massimino spent lower than a month total in do. Reisman was once with NASA for 12 years and spent a cumulative 107 days of his profession in do.
5. Astronauts carry out no longer manufacture as significant money as you’re thinking that.
One of the well-known last observe misconceptions astronauts hear about their work relates to their wage. Whereas they’re paid decently, astronauts don’t win the extensive paychecks some folks might well perhaps perhaps lift comes with this type of excessive-profile job. “We carry out no longer manufacture a heck of various money,” Massimino says. “We manufacture a unheard of authorities wage.”
Astronauts are paid primarily primarily based on the federal authorities’s Frequent Time desk pay scale. Most federal jobs are assigned a Frequent Time desk (GS) grade that determines their beginning wage, and the pay will enhance as they acquire experience. Astronauts either qualify for grades GS 13 or 14 (the last observe grade is GS 15) and manufacture between $104,898 and $161,141 per year. For comparison, Fish and Wildlife directors are paid equally on the accurate experience level.
6. Astronauts lose issues (but no longer for long).
Even in a predicament as tight as a do situation, astronauts quiet prepare to misplace their assets. Attributable to the shortcoming of gravity, the relaxation they let dart of straight away drifts away, that can trigger considerations after they’re no longer paying attention. Massimino remembers one incident that came about to his crewmate Mike Factual: “He had his grandfather’s learn about with him, and he comes as a lot as me and goes, ‘Mass, I’m able to’t fetch the learn about.’ We’re taking a search in each and each single predicament and I reside after a minute and dart, ‘Mike, it’s within right here someplace.'”
They somehow learned it trapped within the airlock. The air filter is one other general predicament the attach misplaced objects end up: With out gravity interfering, the air float will elevate any floating objects there. “One thing we would remark is, ‘Must you would also’t fetch one thing, shiny wait,'” Massimino says. “You’d wake up within the morning and note on the filter and note like aspirin and half of Velcro or one thing, as a result of the entirety somehow would acquire there.”
7. Astronaut opinions on the food in do are mixed.
No subject its reputation, do food has some followers within the astronaut neighborhood. “Astronaut food is supreme,” Massimino says. “We had ravioli, lasagna, cramped cocktail, fajitas. It was once amazing.”
Reisman holds a significant assorted thought of the meals he ate in do. “It’s poor. You don’t dart to the do situation for the food,” he says. Whereas he didn’t like the American and Russian provisions that made up most of his weight loss program in do, he did enjoy good issues to tell about food from other agencies. “The Japanese and the Europeans, when their astronauts would traipse, they’d particular food that was once supplied by their do agencies. The Japanese despatched up yakitori and miso soup and that was once elegant. And the Europeans had pâté. That was once loads better.”
8. Astronauts fetch time to enjoy stress-free.
Between work, meals, and exercise, astronauts don’t enjoy a ton of free time in do. Duties like maintenance, placing in instruments, and conducting experiments assume up the huge majority of their day. Sneaking in sport on the full map staying up previous their scheduled bedtime, which Reisman confirms most astronauts construct. One of his celebrated actions to construct aboard the Global Dwelling Say was once taking images of Earth. “It is possible you’ll perhaps perhaps perhaps assume images of places on Earth that are particular to you. I obtained an image of my hometown, which is rather chilly. As some distance as I do know, no human ever photographed that individual town from do earlier than.”
9. Astronauts think movies do unrealistic standards.
The science isn’t primarily one of the very best thing that’s unrealistic about Hollywood’s portrayal of do drag. “I contain the last observe misconception is that we’re all enormous and accurate-taking a search,” Reisman says. When working as a technical advisor for 2019’s Advert Astra, he jokingly brought up this gripe with the movie’s giant name Brad Pitt. “I acknowledged, ‘I’m variety of pissed off at you. Mediate about who they forged to be astronauts in all these movies and TV reveals. Matt Damon, Matthew McConaughey, George Clooney, Brad Pitt. Folk meet me and as well they’re disappointed.'”
Reisman doesn’t protect this against the actors, then again. Pitt reminded him that the stars portraying astronauts on show screen enjoy plenty to be envious of themselves. “Brad acknowledged: ‘Properly, Garrett, I’m able to no longer if truth be told traipse a spaceship. One of the very best abilities I if truth be told enjoy is being in a neighborhood to stand in a undeniable predicament and browse one thing that any person else wrote. I obtained nothing else.'”
10. Going to the bathroom in do is a tribulation.
Must you’ve ever puzzled how astronauts poop in do, the solution is: with significant subject. “Taking a dump was once no longer simple,” Reisman confirms. With out the relieve of gravity, the utilize of a bathroom in do becomes an stepped forward operation. Astronauts need to strap their feet down to protect from floating away and construct a supreme seal between the bathroom seat and their butt cheeks. The bathroom itself makes utilize of a vacuum hose to suction up the rupture. The task is so complex that the utilize of a do bathroom is section of an astronaut’s coaching. It is no longer weird and wonderful for a bathroom ruin that in most cases takes a fast time on Earth to final half of an hour in do.
11. In this type of competitive subject, astronauts might well perhaps fair quiet be continual.
NASA’s astronaut coaching program is awfully competitive. The agency chosen shiny 12 folks out of a pool of 18,353 candidates in 2017, which comes out to an acceptance rate of 0.065 percent. Massimino needed to apply four times earlier than he made it into this system.
“I used to be once rejected outright twice whereas I used to be once in grad college. The third time I obtained an interview and failed the survey examination, so was once medically disqualified.” NASA considers candidates with lower than 20/20 vision this day as long because it be correctable, but that wasn’t the case when Massimino was once making utilize of. “I went through some vision coaching with an optometrist, and I used to be once in a neighborhood to educate my eyes to note somewhat of better. I used to be once in a neighborhood to apply a fourth time, and I used to be once picked on my fourth strive.”
In step with Massimino, that level of commitment to his aim ended up being relevant to the job itself. “The job is a glorious deal of gradual-night simulations, it be a need to to pass checks, it be a need to to work alongside with your teammates. And except you enjoy a right hobby in it, it be going to be stressful.”