How to be an astronaut

CSA looking for recruits

Editor’s Note: We neglected to mention that applications had closed in the summer of this year. We regret this error, but it’s not like you would have been hired anyway. 

Are you tired of looking up into the night sky, wondering what life is like on the other side of the cosmos? Well, this might be your lucky day, because the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is looking for new astronauts!

“Two individuals will be selected as new members of the Canadian astronaut corps,” the CSA website states. “The CSA is recruiting exceptional people with excellent health; a university education in science, engineering or medicine; and extensive knowledge and experience.”

“Canadian astronaut corps.” Doesn’t that sound amazing? Now, before we get ahead of ourselves, it’s important to note that not every person is eligible to become an astronaut: you must fit several requirements in order to be considered for the position.

As with most post-degree jobs these days, an applicant must come with “three years of relevant experience.”

I know what you’re wondering: “what the heck would be relevant experience for an astronaut?” They’re not looking for people with experience as a pilot, but it can help your chances of getting selected.

A master’s degree would count as one year of experience, and a PhD would grant you three. The other option for gaining experience is having a license to practice medicine in Canada. So really, either head back to school, head back to school for longer, or already be a doctor.

Graphic by Nat Inez, Graphics Contributor

If you fit these requirements already, great! But wait, there’s more!

To be selected as a candidate, you must have 20/20 vision. (They allow laser eye surgery, but advise applicants to not get it for the sole purpose of becoming an astronaut. I wonder why.) Candidates must also be between 4’11” and 6’2” and willing to relocate to Houston, Texas.

So, let’s say you meet all of the above requirements and you’re more than excited to apply. What would life as an astronaut be like for you?

“Being an astronaut is both exciting and incredibly demanding,” the CSA website states. “It requires exceptional commitment and extensive travel, often away from family.”

Once selected, candidates must go back to school for two years of “basic astronaut training.” This training (featuring subjects like robotics, space operations and procedures, flight training, and human behaviour and performance) allows the selected candidates from various backgrounds to all end up on the same level of knowledge before their first mission, as well as prepare them for what they might face in their career.

Once the basic training is completed, candidates officially earn the title of astronaut! Hooray!

But earning the title of astronaut will not immediately catapult you into space, as some may believe. Astronauts will do continuous work on the ground from NASA’s base in Houston, Texas.

Some tasks are just general — training new candidates or testing robotics — but some can be mission specific — like learning Russian. Up in space, the two official languages are English and Russian. If they’re working on the Soyuz Spacecraft, astronauts must communicate solely in Russian with the mission control centre in Moscow.

While this all seems very exciting, it’s important to note that only 14 Canadians have become astronauts since 1983. But, if you have the skills, you may be one of the lucky two to join this team in 2017.

If not, don’t despair. For those who haven’t quite met the astronomical requirements, a fun alternative is to take Astronomy 101 or 102, back on Earth, here at UVic.

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