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Microgravity: living on the International Space Station
Microgravity: living on the International Space Station

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1 The astronaut challenge

Can you see yourself as an astronaut? Do you think you have the skills?

First, are you a US citizen? If not, you can’t apply to join NASA. However, if you are a European citizen, the European Space Agency (ESA) may be an option.

According to the NASA astronaut candidate programme, you need at least an undergraduate degree in engineering, biological sciences, physical sciences, computer sciences or mathematics, along with at least three years’ experience.

You then need to pass the physical test set. You also need to meet the physical size requirements for wearing a space suit. If successful, you would then need to take part in a two-year long training and evaluation period at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. You would be expected to pass a swimming test and become SCUBA-qualified.

Finally, you would also need to pass the following training courses.

  1. ISS systems
  2. EVA skills
  3. Robotics skills
  4. Russian language
  5. Aircraft flight readiness

(NASA, n.d.)

In order to replicate the effects of larger g-forces that astronauts experience, training is carried out on a centrifuge (Figure 1). This is described as a ‘machine with a rapidly rotating container that applies centrifugal force to its contents’ (Oxford dictionaries, 2018).

An image of a NASA centrifuge used for training astronauts.
Figure 1 A NASA centrifuge used for training astronauts.

Now watch Video 2 which shows NASA g-force training where astronauts are rotated at increasing speeds (and increasing values of g, up to 7g – seven times normal gravity).

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 2
Video 2 NASA astronauts in g-force training.
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Next, you will see if you have what it takes to become an astronaut.