How Long Does It Take To Become An Astronaut?

Maybe you’ve dreamed of being an astronaut since you were a little child. And now you’re finally of the age where you can apply to become one. You can’t wait! Before you know it, you might be on that space shuttle, flying up to the cosmos. Oh, if only it was that easy, hey? I’m afraid to tell you that you’re going to have a dream for a little longer because becoming an astronaut isn’t all that easy. It takes time. And effort. I mean, you would be traveling and working up in space. That’s no ordinary job; there are a lot of complications and dangers that come with the territory. So it’s not a case of just signing on the dotted line. You need to train and school and pass the assessment. But how long will this all take? Well, just wait a little longer, and I’ll tell you!

So, how long does it take to become an astronaut? It typically takes ten years to become a qualified astronaut, on average. These ten years typically consist of 6 for schooling, two years of professional experience, and two years of basic training. Beyond this, it may take several more months or even years before as astronaut embarks on their first mission in space. Several months of mission-specific training will need to be completed before an astronaut can embark on said mission.

It’s certainly a lot. But it all makes sense.

As we shall see when we continue to explore in the next few sections!

How Many Years Will It Take To Be An Astronaut?

It will take about ten years to become an astronaut. That’s six years of schooling, two years of professional experience, and two years of basic training.

If you’re lucky enough to be accepted onto NASA’s training program, you’ll need to buckle up! Not onboard the space shuttle just yet, though! 

I mean, metaphorically buckle up for an intense training program like no other.

Your training to become an astronaut will take several years before you are deemed ready to complete a mission up amongst the stars.

Then, once you are picked for a space mission, you still have to wait a little longer. They can’t just sign you up and send you up the next day. You’ll need to complete mission-specific training. This is what it says it is. It’s training that prepares you to complete the specific objectives involved with your mission.

But this is actually all at the back end of an astronaut’s preparation journey.

When you include every part of this journey, an aspiring astronaut is looking at ten years of preparation before they journey on their first space mission. 

This is, of course, a general figure. For some, it might take a little longer; for others, it might all be over sooner.

Why is it ten years? What on Earth, literally, are they doing during this time?

Ok. Let’s break it all down. 

Aspiring astronauts have to complete six years of schooling. Four years at college, followed by another two years to complete a Masters’s Degree.

Then they have to complete two years of professional experience.

And on top of that, they must complete their two years of mandatory basic training.

Add these figures together, and you get your total of 10 years of preparation.

After these ten years, they’ll be a qualified astronaut as long as all goes well. But that doesn’t mean they go on a mission straight away. 

They could be waiting months or even years before a space mission is available for them to embark on. Their mission-specific training will obviously be included at the back end of this time frame, where they wait to embark on a mission.

How Difficult Is It To Become An Astronaut?

It is considered very difficult to become an astronaut. It takes ten years of challenging, intense work. You’ll be required to pass tough physical and psychological tests. Plus, there are limits on places and a lot of competition for places, too.

In short, it’s pretty damn hard! Only a small number of applicants are picked for positions in the training program, and trust me; it’s competitive. A lot of applicants are fighting for a spot, and it’s no surprise being an astronaut is a tremendous dream that belongs to so many!

At NASA, there are currently 48 active astronauts employed. In the last 50 years, less than 600 have traveled up to space. So the odds are stacked against anyone who pursues this dream job.

Please don’t be put off by this; nothing is worth getting if it is easy. You’ve got to pursue your dreams on this planet…and in space!

You’ll probably need to start with a bachelor’s degree in a relevant STEM field. This could be engineering, computer science, physical science, biology, or math. 

Then you’ll need a Masters’s Degree, and then you’ll need those two years of relevant professional work experience.

Once you have this, which makes up the first eight years of your journey to becoming an astronaut. 

Lots of people, of course, complete these stages of the journey. That’s not to say they’re easy. You’ve still got to put in the work and gain the qualifications at college.

But once you then apply for NASA, that’s when the difficulty ups a notch or two.

Firstly, you’ll need to pass NASA’s ‘Long-duration Flight Astronaut Physical.’ This will determine if you are of the right height and weight, but I’m sure any applicant will check this out before they begin their studies.

It will also assess whether an applicant has 20/20 vision and also if their blood pressure doesn’t exceed 140/90 when sitting down.

You’ll also have to pass rigorous physical and psychological tests.

If the stars align and you get selected, you’ll have to complete the basic training program, which lasts for two years. Again, the intensity doesn’t let up here! There is plenty for aspiring astronauts to learn both in the classroom and also in the field in the form of survival training.

So how hard is it to complete this entire process? As I said earlier, it’s pretty damn hard. But getting selected is half the battle.

NASA only hires new astronauts every four years. Many people apply, but only a select few are chosen. 

To give you an idea of how difficult it is, let’s look at the recruitment process at NASA for a few years.

It is reported that in 2013, 6000 people applied to become astronauts at NASA. How many were selected? 8. Yes…8 were chosen. It is incredibly difficult to even get chosen to possibly become an astronaut at NASA.

It gets worse. In 2017, 18,300 people applied to become astronauts at NASA. Luckily, NASA took on more trainees. Well, only four more. They selected a total of 12 out of that pool of 18,300 applicants. That’s a shocking acceptance rate of less than 1%!

See what I meant when I said it’s pretty damn hard?

What Is The Best Age To Become An Astronaut?

The best age to become an astronaut is typically between 30-40 years of age. 

Research shows that the probability of being invited to an interview and eventually selected by NASA increases as applicants approach their late 30s.

Now that you know how difficult it is to become an astronaut, I’m sure you’ll be trying to think of the best strategy to adopt when applying for that dream position.

Well, if you’re ten years old, you’re going to have to wait a bit longer, my friend.

Although there are no age requirements for becoming an astronaut, you will have to be old enough to have gained the relevant qualifications at college and also be able to pass the physical test.

The typical age bracket of astronauts is between 26 to 46 years old. The average age of astronauts sent to space is 34 years old.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t go up if you’re 50 plus. John Glenn was the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth. But when he was 77 years old, he returned to space on a 9-day mission, participating in research that tested the effects of microgravity on the aging body.

Impressive, but I wouldn’t recommend trying to become an astronaut in your 70s, 60s, or even 50s, for that matter.

That’s not to say this is a young person’s game. An astronaut in their 20s will indeed have great levels of health and fitness required for the role, but with age comes increased intelligence and experience.

Research shows that the probability of being invited to an interview and eventually selected by NASA increases as applicants approach their late 30s. So that would suggest that applicants in their 20s and those who are above the age of 40 faces slimmer chances of being selected.

It makes sense as the age range of the late 30s is kind of in between the boundaries of the typical age bracket of astronauts, that being 26 to 46 years old. Those in their late 30s perhaps have a suitable balance of youth, health, and fitness with maturity, experience, and intelligence.

Finally

It’s a long road to becoming an astronaut.

One that many attempt to complete…yet fall short.

This is a one-of-a-kind job that is in popular demand. That’s the reality any applicant is facing.

But if you don’t try, you’ll never know. Who knows? I could be writing an article about your amazing achievements in space one day!

Related Questions

Is 30 too late to become an astronaut?

30 is not too late to become an astronaut. In fact, many astronauts do not become an astronauts until their late 30s, or 40s.

Can a 30 year old become an astronaut?

A 30 year old can become an astronaut. In fact, 30 years old is a good age to become an astronaut, and with all of the requirements to become one, not many astronauts make it before this age, anyway.