Foreign Astronauts

NASA regularly works with foreign astronauts, including those from Canada, Japan, Russia, Brazil and Europe. You can find a full list of foreign and international space agencies here. You should be aware, however, that each foreign agency has its own guidelines and rules for astronaut selection. For example, the European Space Agency, or ESA, manages the European Astronaut Corps, which recruits new candidates from Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden. To date, the ESA has only run three astronaut selection campaigns, with the most recent concluding in 2009. During that campaign, the ESA narrowed down 8,413 qualified candidates to just six selected astronauts [source: ESA]!

Qualifications for Becoming an Astronaut

The basic qualifications for becoming an astronaut center on NASA's near-term strategic goals. For example, astronauts must now meet the size requirements of the Soyuz vehicle, not the space shuttle. They must also know the International Space Station inside and out, from running onboard experiments to completing routine maintenance tasks. Here are the basic qualifications every NASA astronaut must have [source: USAJOBS]:

  • U.S. citizenship
  • Bachelor's degree in engineering, biological sciences, physical sciences or mathematics from an accredited college or university
  • Three years of related professional experience after obtaining the bachelor's degree or at least 1,000 hours in jet aircraft as the pilot in command. Advanced degrees may be substituted for professional experience according to the following formula: a master's degree equals one year of experience, and a doctorate equals three years.
  • Completion of the NASA long-duration, space flight physical exam. Applicants must demonstrate distant and near visual acuity, correctable to 20/20 in each eye, and must not have blood pressure that exceeds 140/90 measured in a sitting position.
  • Height of 62 to 75 inches (157.5 centimeters to 190.5 centimeters).

If you have these basic qualifications and want to apply, you must follow very specific procedures. Civilians must submit applications through the Office of Personnel Management's USAJOBS site. One caveat about your résumé: It must be no longer than six typed pages, or approximately 22,000 characters, including spaces. If your résumé is too long, or if it's uploaded from a second source, it will be bumped from the system. In addition to a résumé, you'll need to submit transcripts accompanied by a coversheet, a list of references and other skills, and an overview of your aeronautical experience. You can find all of these forms on the USAJOBS site.

Just like civilians, active-duty military personnel must submit applications for the Astronaut Candidate Program through the Office of Personnel Management's USAJOBS site. Then they must also apply through their respective military services, using procedures and requirements determined by their specific service. Military points of contact can be found here.