web analytics

You need to be between 5’2″ and 6’3″ to get a job as an astronaut, and other interesting NASA hiring requirements and notes

The 2004 NASA astronaut selection. Seated, from left: Bobby Satcher, Chris Cassidy, Ricky Arnold and Shane Kimbrough. Standing, from left: Jose Hernandez, Tom Marshburn, Joe Acaba, Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, Jim Dutton and Shannon Walker. Not shown: Randy Bresnik.

I was just checking out the NASA brochure for astronaut jobs and hiring information (last updated March 2008). Although the information has to be made available, I didn’t realize they marketed it so publicly — I like to imagine most astronauts as Steve Rogers-style, genetically modified super-scientist outer space aviators. The type that are made, not born, with the sole intention of implementing extra-terrestrial projects of the highest level of classification.

All joking aside, there are some very interesting points in the job post.

  • Prospective astronauts must be between 62″ and 75″ which is the height requirement of the Soyuz spacecraft that will be ferrying astronauts to and from the ISS for the foreseeable future
  • “The National Aeronautics and Space Administration accepts applications for the position of Astronaut Candidate on an as needed basis” (added emphasis is mine). I love this line — “Hey Tommy, we need more astronauts, dammit!”
  • Posts to the ISS can last from 3 to 6 months long. Like a semester at sea, or the ultimate study abroad experience.
  • A science degree in specific areas (engineering, biological science, physical science, or mathematics) and just three years of relevant experience are needed to qualify. And a Ph.D counts as three years.
  • Teaching experience is favorable!
  • A number of technical degrees do NOT qualify – including archaeology (although I can immediately think of a movie plot where NASA has to retract this requirement upon discovery of alien artifacts that appear …familiar).
  • Salary: for civilian astronauts, the pay follows the General Scale, grades 11-14, which based on the 2010 chart, means they are generally paid somewhere between $50,287 and $110,104 per year.
  • “When completed, the ISS will be 356 feet across and 290 feet long, and it will weigh about 940,000 pounds” — for comparison’s sake, a Nimitz class aircraft carrier is 1092 feet long by 252 feet wide, and weighs 97,000 TONS. That’s less than a half of one percent of the weight. Which is smart, since it’s expensive to carry heavy cargo into orbit.

And some detailed bios and interviews with the eleven astronauts from the 2004 selection (pictured above).

Joe Acaba, MS-E Science/math teacher Bio Interview
Ricky Arnold, MS-E Science/math teacher Bio Interview
Randy Bresnik, pilot Marine Corps major Bio Interview not available
Chris Cassidy, MS Navy lieutenant commander Bio Interview
Jim Dutton, pilot Air Force major Bio Interview
Jose Hernandez, MS NASA/Johnson Space Center engineer Bio Interview
Shane Kimbrough, MS Army major Bio Interview
Tom Marshburn, MS NASA/Johnson Space Center flight surgeon Bio Interview
Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, MS-E Science teacher Bio Interview
Bobby Satcher, MS Orthopedic surgeon Bio Interview
Shannon Walker, MS NASA/Johnson Space Center engineer Bio Interview