How to become an Astronaut

How to become an Astronaut

Space is a growing industry. Once upon a time the only way to get into the industry was to work for the government, but now some of the world’s biggest and brightest minds are focused on commercialising space. Which means more jobs and more opportunities.

Although a bulk of the opportunities are available overseas, the industry is growing fast in Australia as well. There are lots of Government and private sector roles, from technical and engineering jobs to defence, advisory roles, research, communications, and more.

About you:

 

  • Passionate about space and innovation
  • Creative and technically minded
  • Physically fit and capable
  • Excellent maths skills
  • Great communicator
  • Willing to put in hard work and time

 

Lifestyle Impact: High

 

  • Part Time opportunities: Depends on the exact role.
  • Average hours for full-time workers: Depends on the exact role.
  • Salary (average): The sky’s the limit, literally. Expect to earn a lot.
  • Future career growth: Very strong (source: labourmarketinsights.gov.au).
  • You will be doing work in a variety of environments, both indoors and outdoors.
  • You will probably have to do a lot of travel, so be prepared to move around a lot to find the best opportunities.

 

How to become an Astronaut in Australia

 

Opportunities in Australia

Many Australian universities offer Aerospace Engineering degrees, and you can expect to study for at least 4 years. If you take a dual degree, which might increase your chances of success in job applications, you could extend your study time to 5 years plus. Consider a dual degree in maths, computer science, or even management. Many degrees will include placements and team projects to make sure you’re ready for the workplace.

The Australian Defence Force also offers training programs, including degrees, for people who want to become Aeronautical Engineers or Pilots. If you choose pilot you could possibly still study Engineering, before becoming a pilot.

 

NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration

NASA is the USA’s space authority, and still at the forefront of the industry. They have a list of their main occupations which shows us the sorts of skills they look for. Here are the main job types:

  • Science and Research
  • Data Science, Cyber and IT
  • Engineering
  • Business Services

Note: NASA very rarely employ anyone who isn’t a US citizen. Andy Thomas, the famous Australian astronaut, became a US citizen with the aim of joining their program. And because of US Government regulations, you also need to be a US citizen to work for any of the private space companies, such as SpaceX.

SpaceX say: “To conform to U.S. Government space technology export regulations, applicant must be a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident of the U.S., protected individual as defined by 8 U.S.C. 1324b(a)(3), or eligible to obtain the required authorizations from the U.S. Department of State. Learn more about ITAR here.” 

But all is not lost.

It’s quite possible that this won’t always be the case. The industry is evolving rapidly, and Australia’s new space agency may offer not only a chance to get to space, but collaboration which would allow you to work on the International Space Station, or even to work for one of the private sector companies if they begin operating in Australia.

There is already a large amount of space infrastructure in Australia, and with projects like the Square Kilometre Array coming online (it’s a next gen radio telescope being built in remote Australia, and the project involves over 20 countries), it’s likely that we’ll see even more expansion in the sector.

If you’re still at school, then you have years in which you could get a great degree and start preparing for a future in space while the industry expands. In fact, as jobs are so competitive, to even be able to apply as an astronaut to NASA you need a degree in engineering, biological science, physical science, computer science or mathematics, plus at least 3 years professional experience or 1,000 hours pilot-in-command time on a jet aircraft.

There’s a great article here from the ABC on how to become an astronaut – put simply, you’ve got lots of time between now and when you’re likely to be a candidate, and in that time the industry may look completely different to how it does right now.

 

Work in the private sector

 

There are a number of major companies doing amazing, cutting-edge work in space right now. Here are three of the biggest companies:

SpaceX
SpaceX was founded under the belief that a future where humanity is out exploring the stars is fundamentally more exciting than one where we are not. Today SpaceX is actively developing the technologies to make this possible, with the ultimate goal of enabling human life on Mars.
Careers

Blue Origin
At Blue Origin, it’s our genuine passion for space exploration that makes an incredibly difficult job equally exhilarating. We’re looking for people who share that passion.
Careers

Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic is comprised of hundreds of dedicated and passionate professionals united in creating something new and lasting: the world’s first commercial spaceline.
Careers

But you don’t need to move overseas. There are companies in Australia as well:

Gilmour Space
Gilmour Space is a venture-backed Australian rocket company developing new capabilities for launching small satellites to space.
Careers

Southern Launch
Southern Launch is a launch service provider, headquartered in Adelaide, South Australia. Our offering includes the Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex, and the Koonibba Test Range, our suborbital testing facility.
Careers

Electro Optic Systems
EOS are a world leader in space information and intelligence services, optical, microwave and on-the-move satellite products, optical sensor units and remote weapon systems for the land sea and air.
Careers

 

What comes next?

 

This isn’t a career path that’s easy to predetermine. Basically, you have to be prepared to work ridiculously hard, make sacrifices, and do well. But as the industry expands, more opportunities will arise that don’t fit into what you’d call ‘astronaut work’. Space X has declared their goal is to send a cargo mission to Mars, and from there they plan on establishing a base which will need a huge array of people, including cooks, telecommunications specialists, medical staff, and miners just to name a few.

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