“One small step for man, one giant step for mankind,” says Commander Neil Armstrong who became the first man on the moon. He said the historic words forty two years ago on July 20, 1969 from the spaceflight Apollo 11 who brought the other two astronauts Buzz Aldine who also landed on the moon and pilot Michael Collins from earth. Neil who?
Exasperated, Dr. Gerald Kucsuzky, a professor of natural science at a reputable New Jersey university vented out his frustrations at some of his sophomore college students who were unfamiliar with this fact, or has the student forgotten his freshman earth science course in high school? Amid this generation’s abreast in cutting edge technology, one still wonders who these famous people were, still groping in the dark finding out what is in store for them in this space age.
“But how does one become an astronaut?” a follow-up question made by another student. “I’m 19 and want to learn about Astrophysics, it is one of the things that really appeals to me. I tried to take Physics in high school but my teacher was terrible and wouldn’t even answer my questions. Do I really have to be good in that?”
Astrophysicsis a branch of astronomy that analyzes the properties and interactions of cosmological objects based on known physical law. Becoming an astronaut may not require one to be super excellent in calculus whether integral or differentiation, trigonometry or physics. A passion for learning and any undergraduate degree acquired are what it takes to become one.
Lt. Col. Catherine Cady Coleman talked about what it’s like to be an astronaut and how a passion for high school chemistry led her to become one. Using her passion and talent for chemistry and engineering, Coleman has made her way up the ranks from inspired student to research chemist to NASA astronaut.
Coleman was selected by NASA in March 1992 to become an astronaut. Her “basic training” includes learning safety procedures, how the space shuttle works, how the space station operates, software information and what to do if things go wrong. (How to Become an Astronaut 101, NASA Human Space Flight)
Each spacecraft is made up of astronauts or cosmonauts who performed duties of commander, pilot, mission specialist, or payload specialist. Mission Applicants for the Astronaut Candidate Program must be citizens of the United States.
Pilot astronauts serve as both Space Shuttle and International Space Station commanders and pilots.
Basic requirements include:
1. Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in engineering, biological science, physical science, or mathematics. An advanced degree is desirable. Quality of academic preparation is important.
2. At least 1,000 hours pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. Flight test experience is highly desirable.
3. Ability to pass a NASA space physical which is similar to a military or civilian flight physical and includes the following specific standards:
- Distant visual acuity: 20/100 or better uncorrected, correctable to 20/20 each eye.
- Blood pressure: 140/90 measured in a sitting position.
- Height between 62 and 75 inches.
So paging future astronauts, the countdown is on…ten, nine, eight.