Thursday, May 30, 2024

What is an astronaut? – Science and life

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Maria Gill
Maria Gill
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The term “astronaut” comes from the Greek words meaning “star navigator.” It refers primarily to people who have been sent as crew for NASA spacecraft (The National Center for Aeronautics and Space Administrationthe name of the American space agency).

But a crew member may be named differently depending on his nationality. Thus we can talk about an astronaut for the Russians, an astronaut for the Chinese, or an astronaut for the French. And for each event, it is actually the same profession.

Earth and Space: Two Sides of the Astronaut

Astronaut careers vary depending on whether he or she is on the International Space Station (International Space Station) or on land. On Earth, he will train for his next flight through training (physical, experimental, EVA excursions, weightless flight), space knowledge acquisition, mission simulation, etc.

Once hired, he still has to wait, sometimes more than a year, before he finally gets on the rocket. On the International Space Station, the astronaut is not idle. – The number of working days is 12 hours per day with only one rest day per week. In addition to physical training, he is required to conduct scientific experiments, carry out maintenance work on the space station, while actively participating in the organization of life on board (meals, water recycling).

Endless skills for a select few

The career of an astronaut requires a broad scientific background, mastery of several languages, technical skills (mechanics, digital systems), but also physical, psychological and personal skills (relationships, personality, stress and pressure resistance).

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Selection is rigorous because the training that follows is long and expensive, with few vacancies. In 2023, there were eight European astronauts, and among them was only one Frenchman, Thomas Pesquet from Rouen, who had already participated in two missions aboard the International Space Station for a total of more than 400 days spent in space.

A short guide for the future astronaut

In Europe, the recruitment of astronauts requires several prerequisites. First, you must be a citizen of an ESA member state and between 27 and 50 years old. Next, have a master's degree in science or engineering, speak English fluently and have at least 3 years of professional experience.

Finally, the candidate must present some psychological and interpersonal skills, such as the ability to remain calm and manage family distance. For the chosen few, the net salary is around €6,000 per month at the start of their career, and can rise to nearly €10,000 net per month after the first trip.

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