Do you ever daydream about going into space? Today we salute America’s astronauts, those trailblazing explorers who go “where no man has gone before.”
National Astronaut Day is observed annually on May 5th, celebrating the bravery, adventurous spirit, and milestone achievements of our astronauts. The celebration was created to inspire us all to follow our dreams, whether they involve outer space, or more Earthly pursuits that are no less important to our personal development and the future of our race.
A Career as an Astronaut
A job as an astronaut is perhaps one of the most rewarding of the STEM careers. But, as we’re reminded by Space.com, making it to space takes education, experience, and determination. Many people are rejected on their first try, but the passionate and the persistent can succeed.
NASA publishes their basic requirements for the astronaut program on their website, and stresses the importance of high-quality academic preparation.
To become an Astronaut Pilot you’ll need:
- A Bachelor's degree in engineering, biological science, physical science, or mathematics. An advanced degree is desirable.
- At least 1,000 hours pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft.
- Ability to pass a NASA space physical, similar to a military or civilian flight physical
The Mission Specialist role also requires a Bachelor's degree in a STEM field, followed by at least 3 years of related professional experience. Another path to space is as a Payload Specialist. These crew members are not officially NASA astronauts, but they still have rigorous acceptance criteria. Their onboard duties often include conducting specialized experiments, and thus most are doctors, physicists, or scientists.
Mission to Mars
If you’re ready to explore our solar system, NASA may want to meet you. Their goal is to send a mission to Mars within the 2030’s decade. President Trump would like to see it happen even sooner than that.
The journey is already under way, with exploration by orbiters, landers, and rovers paving the way for future human explorers.
NASA has planned the Mars adventure in 3 phases:
- Earth Reliant – Research conducted aboard the International Space Station will help NASA test the systems needed for human missions to deep space, and ways to maintain human health in space over long periods. NASA is also working with commercial partners on low-Earth orbit projects, to stimulate new economic activity and funding.
- The Proving Ground – In a series of missions near the moon, NASA hopes to learn how to support human life and operations on Mars. In the first mission, the Space Launch System will carry the unmanned Orion spacecraft thousands of miles beyond the moon. Next, Orion astronauts will travel farther than humans have ever traveled before. Later NASA will conduct a yearlong manned mission, testing our readiness for Mars.
- Earth Independent – This phase will test the descent and landing techniques needed to get to the Martian surface and study resource utilization for humans "living off the land."
NASA tells us, “Mars is the next tangible frontier for human exploration, and it's an achievable goal… We are well on our way to getting there, landing there, and living there.”
Will you join them?
Let’s Hear the Stories
The National Astronaut Day founders hope to inspire us to “reach for the stars” by sharing “out of this world” astronaut stories and experiences. Here are some of the amazing experiences of actual astronauts that Envision has worked with personally:
Dr. Mae Jemison – The dream of space is open to all, regardless of race or gender. Dr. Mae Jemison was the first black woman in space. She has also been a doctor, engineer, Peace Corps medical officer, refugee camp worker, and technology entrepreneur. Her consulting firm, The Jemison Group, Inc., works to bring advanced technology to people worldwide and foster a love of science in students.
Dr. Jemison was a Keynote Speaker for Envision’s 2015 NYLF Explore STEM program. You can follow her on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/maejemison.
Dr. Leroy Chiao – This former NASA astronaut now works in consulting, executive coaching, and space education. He is also an advisor to the Houston Association for Space and Science Education. A veteran of four space missions, Dr. Chiao most recently served as Commander and NASA Science Officer of Expedition 10, aboard the International Space Station. He has logged over 229 days in space – over 36 hours of which were spent in Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA, or spacewalks). He has flown space missions with Russian, Japanese, and European Astronauts and their affiliated space agencies. He currently serves on the NASA Advisory Council.
You can learn more about Dr. Chiao and see him in person, when he serves as Envision Keynote Speaker for the 2017 NYLF Explore STEM program, this summer!
Captain Jerry Linenger – This famous NASA astronaut is a retired U.S. Navy flight surgeon. During one of the most dangerous missions in space history, Capt. Linenger spent nearly 5 months aboard the Russian space station Mir. He faced numerous life-threatening situations, including failure of critical life-support systems, a near-collision between the space station and an incoming re-supply spacecraft, a raging fire, and computer failures that sent the space station tumbling through space. In spite of these challenges, Capt. Linenger and his Russian crewmates accomplished all mission goals: shuttle docking, space walking, a Soyuz fly-around, and 120 science experiments. He logged 50 million miles, traveling at a speed of nearly 18,000 miles per hour. In 2008, NASA awarded him the Distinguished Service Medal, citing his courage and outstanding service to our country.
You can learn more about Capt. Linenger and see him in person, when he serves as Envision Keynote Speaker for the 2017 NYLF Explore STEM program, this summer!
Your Turn to Share
Celebrate National Astronaut Day by sharing your favorite Astronaut stories! Post on social media at Twitter/Facebook: @uniphispaceage, or Instagram @uniphigood. Use #WeBelieveInAstronauts and #NationalAstronautDay.