On a continuing basis, NASA selects qualified applicants to participate in a rigorous one year training program directed by the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Prerequisites for the space program include jet aircraft and engineering training as well as scientific education. NASA astronauts are required to have at least a bachelor's degree in engineering, science or mathematics. This means you would need to take a majority of classes in math or science, such as advanced physics and calculus classes. All applicants must be citizens of the United States.
After completing the course, candidates become members of the astronaut corps and are generally eligible for a flight assignment the following year. While in training, candidates study subjects like aerodynamics and spacecraft tracking techniques. They learn about flight control systems as well as on board equipment. The actual flight training takes place in a jet aircraft where the trainees practice maneuvers at high altitudes. They are even trained to experience near weightlessness as the training airplane practices dives and the candidates float in padded cabins for half a minute. After an astronaut is assigned to a mission he or she will then spend more hours training in a simulator that replicates the conditions of actual space flight. While practicing in the full sized space craft astronauts can get used to doing everything that they will routinely need to do in space, such as preparing food and entering and leaving the spacecraft. Pilot astronauts are trained to control and command the space craft while mission specialists train to conduct experiments launch and recapture satellites and maintain the spacecraft and its equipment.
Pilot astronauts can serve as either a pilot or commander during the shuttle flight. A commander's key responsibility is to keep the vehicle and crew safe. They play a key role in the success of the mission. The pilot astronaut controls and operates the shuttle. During the flight pilots and commanders assist in the spacecraft deployment and retrieval operations. In order to be selected as a candidate a pilot astronaut applicant must have a bachelors degree in engineering, biological science, physical science or mathematics. A graduate degree is preferred but is not always essential. Applicants must also have at least one thousand jet aircraft flying hours. Additionally applicants are required to pass a physical examination as well as have a distance visual acuity no greater than 20 /50 uncorrected, a sitting blood pressure no greater than 140 over 90 and a height between 64 and 76 inches tall. The mission specialists work one on one with the commander and pilot and are responsible for coordinating on board operations such as planning the crew activities and monitoring the fuel, water and food on board the shuttle. The mission specialists also perform on board space walks. Although the basic physical qualifications are the same as for the pilots their uncorrected visual acuity can be as high as 20/100 and their height range lies between 60 and 76 inches. Academically, however these applicants not only need the bachelor's degree in engineering, biological science, physical science or mathematics, they also require at least three years of related professional experience.
Once selected, initial training consists of courses in aircraft safety which includes instruction in ejection in the event that the aircraft becomes disabled or they have to make an emergency landing. Pilot astronauts and mission specialists need to continually maintain their skills in flying as well as academically through lectures and classes that include courses in meteorology, navigation, astronomy, physics and computer science.
Advanced training follows initial training which combines curricula with system training (what to do in orbit, how to live and work) and phase training (shuttle simulations.)