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

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

Microgravity: living on the International Space Station

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).

Described image
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.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Next, you will see if you have what it takes to become an astronaut.

MG_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus