OK, who hasn’t dreamed (or had a buddy who dreamed) of becoming an astronaut as a child?? Going into space, defying the laws of gravity, flying, touching the stars (no), and all that stuff that looked super fun. I wouldn’t go so far as to say everyone, but I’m willing to bet there were a lot of you (yeah, I’m getting wet, yeah)! To find out if this dream is really achievable, it’s time to check if you are eligible… Spoiler: no. Courage.
1. Be between 27 and 50 years old
We start with a fairly easy criterion, which is still within reach of a lot of people, right?
Why these ages? We’ll come back to it later, but you need a minimum of diplomas, professional experience, going through a year of recruitment and then a year of internal training before going into space. So even if you skipped a class and got your high school diploma at 16, you can’t really become an astronaut before. For the 50-year limit, it is not prohibitive, but the European Space Agency wants the people recruited to remain at their side for at least 15 years, the age limit for flying being 63 years old. The ideal, in fact, is to be between 27 and 37 years old.
2. Have a scientific master’s degree (at least)
There you go, I told you that we would come back to the question of diplomas! An astronaut is above all a machine operator, who must therefore master techniques, mathematics and equations. In fact, ESA requires a Master’s degree (or higher) in Engineering, Medicine, Natural Sciences (Physical Sciences, Earth Sciences, Atmospheric Sciences, Ocean Sciences, Biology), Mathematics or Computer Science. Also accepted are: test pilots and flight engineers if they come from a certified test pilot school. The “doctorate” level is a plus, but is not compulsory. In short, you have to be a face. Two points, and already, two “no” for me… And you, how is it?
3. … and have at least three years of professional experience
The professional experience in question must be related to studies, but can be carried out in different environments: a laboratory, a hospital or even research work. No… Your 3 years as versatile team members at McDonald’s don’t count… Yes, I know, it’s not fair, but that’s how it is.
4. Be a citizen of an ESA member country
ESA, translate “European Space Agency”. Translate again (yes, that’s a lot of translation, but it makes you work a bit, shit) “European Space Agency”. Translate again and again E… No, I’m kidding. In total, 22 States are members of ESA, including Germany, Denmark, Spain, France, Italy, Luxembourg and even Norway.
5. Measure (preferably) between 1m55 and 1m90
That vaaaa, it’s wide as a fork! What are they waiting for to fuck the same at Miss France, seriously? Years that my meter sixty-eight deprives me of my title, damn. Speaking of height, did you know that astronauts gain about 4cm in space? Yes Jamie, in weightlessness, the phenomenon of compaction of the discs does not exist. Thus, the spine relaxes and lengthens (a little). Too wow. I can compete in Miss ISS actually!!
6. Be bilingual in English
Because you need to understand your flight companions very well, who come from everywhere and who do not necessarily speak French very well. In short, if you talk like that, it’s NO. You need at least a C1 level. AND THAT’S NOT ALL ! You must also master another language, with a B1-B2 level (high school level, what). For example: Pesquet speaks English, Russian, Spanish, German, French, and even a little Chinese. Broom. Contrary to what we tend to believe, mastering Russian is no longer a selection criterion, but will be part of the training course!
7. Be in good physical condition
In the past, astronauts made short trips back and forth in space (a few days). Today, they spend months there. In some time perhaps, years. In fact, and because life up there is still quite trying, you have to meet a whole range of physical and medical conditions to be eligible… It must be said that bringing a doctor into space in the event of sores or diseases, it’s not easy peasy in fact.
Good news, however! At the end of March 2021, the European Space Agency launched its very first campaign to recruit astronauts with disabilities. We talk about “parastronauts”. For the moment, only 4 types of handicaps are retained: a handicap of one or two lower limbs, preferably below the knee, one leg shorter than the other and people of small stature (less than 1m30).C is a first step. The ultimate goal is to open up even more.
8. Don’t be claustrophobic
Report the fact that you will spend months in the ISS, and that its living space is about that of a house. A “house” shared with several other people (there were 7 of them during the Crew-1 mission), without a garden, and with a view of… Space. The void. Nothingness. The Earth seen from the sky. Just thinking about it makes me nauseous. For the record, the ISS has only 6 “rooms” (cabins, in fact). The 7th member therefore slept in “Resilience”, the ship on which they arrived. Are you too worried about this projection?
9. Be highly motivated, flexible and able to withstand pressure
And I’m not talking about atmospheric pressure, ptdr (do you have it?). As for flexibility… Bah… There’s not really much choice actually. You’re rocketed into space, so obviously it’s not really the place to leave the office at 6 p.m. and have all your weekends, in fact.
10. Do not be head in the air, and have your feet on the ground