Career Corner Life as an... astronaut

Being an astronaut is physically demanding, and there are a number of qualifications necessary to become one... or, like Nicki in the clip above from First Dates, you could just pay Virgin Galactic $250,000. Watch the full episode of First Dates here.

If you don't have a quarter of a million dollars lying around, don't fret - here are some tips to get you started on your trip to the stars.

Shooting Far

The first thing to mention is that it's hard - REALLY hard - to get picked to become an astronaut. It takes years of education and training and a ton of applicants don't get taken on, on their first try. In his autobiography, retired astronaut Clay Anderson writes about applying to become an astronaut a total of 15 times, and receiving rejection after rejection. Still, he eventually made it - the ultimate 'up yours' to the many who thought that he wouldn't!

A-star student

You'll be required to have a PhD in chemistry, engineering, information technology, mathematics, biology or physics, or at least 1,000 hours flying experience in a high performance aircraft. You'll need to speak fluent English and preferably have a grasp on a second language, too.

Stellar Skills

There are a number of different skills required. These include:

  • Having good judgement
  • Being able to stay calm when things go wrong
  • Having both physical and mental strength
  • Having advanced scientific and/or flight skills

Day-to-day missions

Being an astronaut doesn't just involve hovering around trying to catch floating Wotsits with your mouth all day - you'll also be required to clean, repair and maintain oxygen and water systems, manage and replace broken parts of the spacecraft, work with scientific instruments and equipment, and more. Apart from that, you'll also keep active by doing around 2.5 hours of exercise a day.


A starter salary is around £40,000, and a highly experienced astronaut can earn approximately 80,000 - although this is just a guide.

Onwards and upwards...

Before being picked for a mission, you'll have a number of years training, and the mission could last anywhere between 6 months to a year. You could go on to partake in other future missions, or you could move into management or training.

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