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¶ on being an astronaut
A dream I once had as a kid, but never really put much thought into because it seemed so unlikely has recently resurfaced after Jen went to visit Kennedy Space Center last month.

So here's the deal. If you want to be an astronaut for NASA, there are basically two ways to do it. You can go the military route and hope to be a mission pilot or mission commander, or you can go the civilian academic route and hope to be a mission specialist. If you go the civilian route, having a phd in mathematics, physical sciences, or engineering helps a lot. See NASA astronaut class of 1998. Apparently, that's what half the students in the aero astro department here are planning.

If you make it past the initial selection process (application, written exam, interviews) then there's a two year training program. Then you're an astronaut candidate. You're not guaranteed to fly, however, as it depends on the missions. Since Columbia, there haven't been many shuttle missions, so there are some astronaut candidates who've been waiting 7-8 years to fly. Some give up on flying and move on to doing other things with their lives.

So I figure I meet the height requirements for being a mission specialist, am in good physical health, and will eventually get my phd in an engineering field. What's there to stop me?

Well, there's the eyesight problem. NASA demands good to perfect eyesight, and corrective surgery disqualifies you. So I'm screwed for now, but that policy might change (Air Force/Navy started allowing fighter pilots to have eye surgery three years ago, NASA is expected to follow suit). Besides, if I apply, it won't be for at least four or six years. NASA hasn't been hiring young astronauts lately anyway. In recent years, they haven't taken on candidates under the age of 36.

Where will I be when I'm 36? Running some company? Tenured professor somewhere? Working an industrial research lab? Flipping burgers? If I applied and got accepted to training, would I give it all up just for a chance to shoot for the stars? Who knows...

But that's like aeons from now... best to forget about it for a few years...

Yes, nowadays you could just fork up $200,000 to ride a tour bus upstairs, but that's cheating. It's like hiring a bunch of sherpas to give you a piggyback ride up Mt. Everest.

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