FOR many of us, there is a time in the lives when we realise that we may never be astronauts.
We are too tired, too busy or simply not interested enough in the endless expanse beyond the Earth.
But for those select few who persevere, and who work to push themselves beyond the boundaries of this planet, there is a long path to walk.
The term astronaut comes from the Greek words meaning "space sailor", and refers to all those who have been involved in space travel with NASA in the United States.
Those who have gone into space through the Russian space program may be called "cosmonauts".
In 2010, the International Space Station was celebrated for having humans on-board for 10 years non-stop.
Of the billions of people down here on Earth, the number who have lived on the ISS is closer to 200.
If you want to be one of those few in the future, it will take time, effort and work.
So what does it take?
1. A love of AMAZING SPACE
This is where your journey begins. You need to be excited about what lies beyond planet earth.
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2. You have to study really hard
Although you might have an insatiable passion for the stars, planets and space, that is only the start of the journey out of this world.
To become an astronaut you need to work hard at school, then at university.
You will need a bachelor's degree from a university in either engineering, biological science, physical science or mathematics.
3. You need to study some more, or fly a jet.
Once you have that, you can either keep studying or you can spend time in a jet aircraft's cockpit.
After the degree, you must study for at least another three years or do 1000 hours as a pilot in a jet.
The more you study, or the more experience you have as a pilot, the more likely you are to impress NASA.
If you can pass those hurdles, then succeed through a week-long interview process, it's on to the next challenge.
4. You need to be very fit and very healthy
Being able to ride your bike to school or the office won't be enough. Before NASA sends you into space, scientists need to make sure you're ready.
Would-be astronauts will have to do complete a military water survival program before doing more flight training. They become SCUBA qualified before they can do spacewalk training.
These are real tests NASA demands of wanna-be adventurers:
- Swim three laps of a 25m pool without stopping, then
- Swim three laps in the pool in a full flight suit and tennis shoes (no time limit)
- Treading water non-stop for 10 minutes in a flight suit.
- Be exposed to "micro-gravity", which leads to weightlessness 20 seconds a time up to 40 times in a day.
You also need a very specific blood pressure level: below 140/90 while sitting.
5. You need to be able to see
This seems obvious, but significant sight problems could make it difficult for you to become an astronaut. Not impossible, just difficult.
NASA demands that astronauts "must be correctable" to perfect 20/20 vision in each eye.
That means if you have weak eyes, you may need to undergo a surgical procedure to improve your vision.
6. You have to be the right height.
Are you the tallest person you know or is everyone a giant compared to your tiny height?
Astronauts can be confined in a very tight space for a long time.
That means you have to be able to properly fit inside.
NASA rules state that astronauts must stand between 157.5cm and 190.5cm.
7. You need to study some more
You ticked all those earlier boxes so you're probably very smart and willing to work incredibly hard.
But that's not enough. To graduate from NASA's Astronaut Candidate Program, you also need to have successfully studied one of the following:
- International Space Station systems
- Extravehicular Activity skills,
- Robotics skills,
- Russian, or
- Aircraft flight readiness
8. You'll be put through your paces
You're now almost ready to go into space.
Time to be introduced to your future home.
Astronauts will be put into full-sized models so they can become used to how the controls work.
They will also learn how to cook meals, where items are stored, how to deal with garbage, and conduct experiments.
Even those who aren't pilots are expected to fly at least four hours a month.
What would you be exploring?
NASA is now considering manned missions to asteroids that travel near to Earth before 2025.
It will need some of the world's best and brightest to do that.
To find out more, check out the NASA website.
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