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What They Do

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The word astronaut means "star sailor" in Latin. It's a good description of this career. Astronauts are the elite few trained to travel outside the Earth's atmosphere on space shuttle missions.

There are three types of astronauts: pilots, mission specialists and payload specialists.

Pilots are responsible for flight control and overall command of the shuttle. They must have logged at least 1,000 hours of flight time in command of a jet aircraft. Almost all astronaut pilots have served in the armed forces.

Mission specialists are in charge of organizing shuttle operations, such as crew activity planning and food, as well as experiment and payload operations. They also perform extravehicular activities (work performed in space outside a spacecraft).

Payload specialists are trained to conduct experiments during a mission. The payload refers to the equipment needed for the experiments.

Long hours are typical and time spent away from home can be hard on family life.

At a Glance

Travel and work in space

  • Time spent away from home can be hard
  • There is a strict weeding out process for astronauts
  • Engineering, medical science or related fields could get you in


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