Monday, March 16, 2015

It's Rocket Science

Do you have what it takes to become an astronaut?

While the idea might sound impossible, it's not. If you can excel in science and math, and are willing to go through the steps required, you might have a chance to explore life in outer space. Remember, all the astronauts that have done it had to start somewhere.

                                              "Pinky" Nelson

One of our astronauts, George "Pinky" Nelson,  was born in Iowa but grew up in Willmar, Minnesota, and considers that his hometown. He graduated from Willmar High School and achieved a PhD in Astronomy from the University of Washington. Nelson flew on the Challenger, the Columbia, and Discovery space flights. Read his full biography here:

                                  And a man has walked on the moon.........

First in line of command, logically, in a spacecraft is the Commander. This is the person who is in charge of the craft. This person is required to have a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering, biological science, physical science, or math. Advanced education (graduate school) is always a good addition for someone with this much responsibility. You would also need 1000 hours experience as a pilot in command of jet aircraft, have flight test experience, and pass NASA's space physical. That physical requires that you are between 62"-75" in height, have acceptable blood pressure, and a number of other things.

                                    Astronaut Nicole Stott

The second in line on a spacecraft are the Mission Specialists. These are the people in charge of activities that take place during the flight, and coordinating those things with the Commander. Activities for the Mission Specialist would include EVA (Extra-vehicular activity....leaving the space capsule for maintenance or exploration). A Mission Specialist will also have a degree in either: Engineering, biological science, physical science, or math. Add three years' experience or a combination of a Masters Degree plus three years' experience for the qualifications of a Mission Specialist.

                                            Astronaut Stephen Robinson during an Extra-Vehicular Activity

                                   EVA outside the Space Station

Third in line on a mission is the Payload Specialists. These people have assorted duties on board the craft, and would be third in line to join the crew if the need would arise.

                                             Astronaut Ron McNair

Here is astronaut Ron McNair. He achieved a PhD in Physics, and was one of 35 people selected to join NASA---from 10,000 original applicants. He was only the second African American to become an astronaut. He was a Mission Specialist on two Challenger missions: The first in February 1984, and the second in January 1986, which tragically ended when it disintegrated in midair right after liftoff.

Mr. McNair has a TRIO scholarship named for him: the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program.

Read more about Mr. McNair here:

Do you remember the part in "Apollo 13" where they had to devise something to serve as an air purifier using only items on board the space ship? This picture shows the real thing.

                                           Astronauts trying to catch fruit while being weightless

There are many other careers at NASA if you are not interested in being an astronaut.
Here are a few of the occupations also necessary to keep NASA up and running:

Engineering: Range, Simulation, Operations
Computer Engineer
System Engineers
Space suit design
Flight physicians
Communications specialists
Intelligence Research
Information Security
Vehicle Design
Public Relations

There are a number of locations where NASA's work is done:
ARC - Ames Research Center, California
AFRC - Armstrong Flight Research Center, California
Johnson Space Center - Houston, Texas
NSSC - NASA Shared Services Center
SSC - Stennis Space Center, Mississippi
MSFC - Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama
KSC - Kennedy Space Center, Florida
GR - Glenn Research, Ohio
LARC - Langley Research Center, Virginia
GSC - Goddard Space Center, Maryland
HQ - Headquarters of NASA, Washington, DC

Read more about NASA's requirements here:

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