The Selection Process to become an Astronaut

When an individual applies to NASA for consideration as an astronaut, they are really applying for admission to the Astronaut Candidate training program. The requirements for selection to this training program are incredibly rigorous. Once accepted, the Astronaut Candidate will have to quit their job or take a leave of absence from their position. They will also have to move their family to Houston.

The selection process is terribly competitive. Each year, anywhere from 8,000 to 10,000 people may apply to be accepted into the Astronaut Candidate Training Program. Of those 8 to 10,000 applicants, roughly two dozen may be accepted. Of those two dozen applicants, not all will be able to successfully complete the rigorous training program and evaluation.

Some of the candidate applicants have extensive computer training. The candidate applicants for pilot positions are typically military officers with extensive flying experience who also have outstanding academic credentials. Candidates for astronaut pilot positions will have to have at least 1,000 hours of flying experience to qualify to be a pilot of the commander of a mission.

Individuals who apply to the Astronaut Candidate program must meet certain basic educational requirements for NASA engineering and scientific positions. They must have successfully completed a standard professional curriculum in an accredited university, and that curriculum must lead to a minimum of a bachelor’s degree with a major in an appropriate field of engineering, mathematics, physical or biological science.

Some degrees are not acceptable as qualifying education. The degrees that are not recognized as qualifying for NASA’s standards are:


Engineering Technology

Aviation Technology

Medical Terminology

DEGREES IN PSYCHOLOGY (with the exception of clinical psychology, physiological psychology and experimental psychology because those DO qualify.)



DEGREES IN SOCIAL SCIENCES (which would include Geography, Anthropology, Archeology and Sociology.)


All Astronaut Candidate applicants must be U.S. citizens. After NASA goes through the preliminary process of reviewing the applications, they may request additional information from some of the candidates.

Additionally, the prospective candidate must be able to pass the NASA long duration space flight physical exam. The requirements for that exam are:

*distance vision that is correctable to 20/20

*close range vision that is correctable to 20/20.

*Vision correction surgery is permitted as long as one year has passed since the applicant has had the surgery, and they must provide documentation from the doctor who performed the surgery.

*Blood pressure cannot exceed 140/90 when the applicant is seated.

*A prospective candidate must be no more or no less than 75 inches tall and 62 inches tall when standing.

By the time an applicant reaches the point where they are one of the candidates for final consideration in the Astronaut Candidate program, they will go through a process that takes an entire week. They will also go through an orientation process. They will have to go through additional interviews in this phase of the selection process as well.

Once the final selections are made, the applicants are then notified. At this point, although they become Astronaut Candidates, this does not guarantee that they will be selected as actual astronauts at the end of this training program. As Astronaut Candidates, they are assigned to the Astronaut Office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

For the next two years, all Astronaut Candidates will undergo rigorous and intensive training and they will be evaluated all the while throughout the process. They will be required to participate in the Basic Astronaut Training Program where they will learn all of the things they need to know (through classwork,) and acquire all of the skills they will need to have to become astronauts.

As part of the Astronaut Candidate Training Program, the candidates are required to complete the rigorous military water survival training. They must complete this before they can start the flying syllabus. They must also go through SCUBA training and complete the requirements that are necessary for qualifying as a SCUBA diver. This is to prepare them for EVA (Extra Vehicular Training) because that training takes place in one of NASA’s two specially designed huge tanks.

During the first month of the Astronaut Candidate Training Program, all of the candidates are required to pass a swimming test in which they must first swim three laps of a 25 meter pool without stopping. They must then swim the same three laps while wearing a flight suit and gym shoes. No time limit is imposed on these to swims. They must then pass a test in which they are required to tread water continuously for ten minutes.

After the completion of the two year Astronaut Candidate Program, when the final selection of astronauts is made, the ultimate outcome will depend on the successful completion of the training program and the evaluation that was taking place for the entire duration of the training program. Once they have successfully completed all of the basic training requirements, they may be accepted as Astronauts.

There is never a guarantee that all of the astronauts who go through Astronaut Candidate Training will be accepted as astronauts.

Advanced mission training doesn’t begin until the new Astronaut is assigned to a crew. Until then, they may be given other duties that are related to Astronaut work, including work on the ground as part of Mission Control. Astronauts who aren’t immediately assigned to a crew will go on to do other work in the Astonaut Office.