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This is why only 360 people became NASA astronauts in the last 60 years

Many children often look up at the night sky, dreaming of becoming brave astronauts so they can set foot on the moon and other planets.

But not many children can make their dreams come true, because to become astronauts when they grow up, they will have to go through an extremely rigorous selection process. For NASA’s 2021 astronaut class, the US space agency said it only selected 10 candidates out of more than 12,000 applicants.

According to NASA, basic requirements include US citizenship and a master’s degree or higher in a STEM field, such as engineering, biological science, or computer science. Astronauts must be in good shape and able to pass NASA’s rigorous physical tests.

Since NASA announced the first batch of astronauts in 1959, over the past 60 years, just over 350 people have been able to become astronauts. In a 2020 blog post, Anne McClain, a NASA astronaut, summarized what the agency is looking for in future space travelers: “Acceptable, reliable, tenacious and detail-oriented.”

A nurse taking a blood sample from NASA astronaut John Glenn in 1961.

In the early days of the space race between the two superpowers America and the Soviet Union, soldiers were the first in the queue to become astronauts. Even today, the 12 people who have walked on the moon are all white men. However, NASA’s astronaut corps has become more diverse, and in the upcoming Artemis 2024 mission, the space agency aims to send the first woman and person of color to the moon.

Going back to the selection process, NASA astronaut candidates, known as ASCAN, will have to undergo two-year training to become qualified astronauts. The US space agency will train its astronauts in a variety of environments, including large pools and hot deserts, to test their mettle.

This is why only 360 people became NASA astronauts in the last 60 years | Discover

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin trains underwater for spacewalks, October 1966.

To prepare for adventures beyond the confines of spacecraft, astronauts will train underwater in large indoor swimming pools. They must dive into lakes that simulate the microgravity or weightlessness they would experience while working in space.

Using the spaceship model in the pool, the astronauts will practice spacewalking so that they are not too surprised when they have to leave the spacecraft in the future.

This is why only 360 people became NASA astronauts in the last 60 years | Discover

Diving in a pool with no light is also a stressful exercise.

NASA also conducts spacewalk training at its state-of-the-art laboratory at the Johnson Space Center located in Houston, Texas. It is a huge pool, containing about 23 million liters of water, and has a simulation of the International Space Station (ISS), so that astronauts can practice using these hardware in the environment. weightless field.

This is why only 360 people became NASA astronauts in the last 60 years | Discover

NASA has large swimming pools to simulate the zero gravity environment.

NASA’s gravity reduction research program began in 1959, according to the space agency. As part of it, astronauts will be trained by flying in a zero-gravity craft, known as a “vomiting comet”.

It moves in a pattern of climbing and then dropping suddenly, causing the passengers on the plane to experience about 25 seconds in a state of zero gravity.

This is why only 360 people became NASA astronauts in the last 60 years | Discover

Practice fixing something on the “vomiting comet”.

The program involved several types of aircraft over the years, including NASA’s KC-135A family of aircraft, which were retired in 2004. In 2008, a private company, Zero Gravity Corporation, launched take over the operation of zero gravity flights for NASA, according to the US space agency.

This is why only 360 people became NASA astronauts in the last 60 years | Discover

Project Mercury astronauts aboard C-131, one of the first aircraft to be affectionately nicknamed the “vomiting comet”, in November 1958.

The plane also serves as a floating laboratory. The researchers will perform medical studies and test for motion sickness on these flights, as the roller coaster-like movements of the plane often make passengers feel fatigued.

Sometimes, this plane is also used to become a setting in Hollywood movies. Actors such as Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon and Bill Paxton filmed zero-gravity scenes in the 1995 movie “Apollo 13” on the “vomiting comet”.

This is why only 360 people became NASA astronauts in the last 60 years | Discover

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin hovers during a moment of weightlessness in a plane on July 9, 1969.

Since the launch of the Mercury 7 crew in 1959, NASA astronauts began to learn survival techniques, in case they had to make an emergency landing in a remote area.

In 1964, the Apollo 11 astronauts traveled to Nevada to spend three days in the hot dry desert and practice survival skills. In the picture below, they are wearing clothes made from umbrellas to keep their bodies cool in the heat of the desert.

This is why only 360 people became NASA astronauts in the last 60 years | Discover

Frank Borman, Neil Armstrong, John Young and Deke Slayton during desert survival training in Nevada on August 13, 1964.

NASA astronauts have to train in the desert because this environment is the closest to alien environments. As part of training for the Artemis lunar rocket missions, the US space agency said it will conduct two field trainings in the Arizona desert, which has a surface similar to that of the moon.

This is why only 360 people became NASA astronauts in the last 60 years | Discover

Astronaut Franklin Musgrave collects and filters water during desert survival training near Pasco, Washington, in 1969.

During the space race, astronauts also train on a multi-axis training device that spins them in a series of frantic revolutions, at up to 30 revolutions per minute.

This machine, nicknamed the gimbal, was designed to help astronauts get used to the disorienting trips they might have to go through in a situation where the spacecraft was for some reason toppling over. in space.

This is why only 360 people became NASA astronauts in the last 60 years | Discover

Gimbal rig, developed to train astronauts to gain control of the spacecraft while it is spinning.

“It was one of the most rigorous tests and training we’ve been through,” John Glenn, a Project Mercury astronaut, said in a NASA video posted to YouTube in 2016. “We really hate that gimbal!”

The original seven Project Mercury astronauts, and the Mercury 13’s 13 women, trained on the gimbal in 1960. However, NASA no longer uses the rotary device to train astronauts. Simply because today’s modern spacecraft no longer requires astronauts to control anything while it is rotating.

This is why only 360 people became NASA astronauts in the last 60 years | Discover

Practicing on a gimbal is an unforgettable challenge.

During the training of astronauts to go to the moon for the first time, NASA also used a large machine called a centrifuge to test its ability to withstand changes from gravity.

This centrifuge has a rotating arm, with a capsule that can hold a person inside. As the machine rotates, the astronauts will test their ability to withstand extreme gravity.

This is why only 360 people became NASA astronauts in the last 60 years | Discover

Centrifuge used to train astronauts at TruNASA’s manned space center in the 1960s.

“Swinging around at the end of that long arm, I act as a guinea pig to demonstrate what a human can encounter when launched into space or when re-entering the atmosphere.” , astronaut Glenn recalled in his 2000 memoir.

In addition, astronauts will undergo psychological and psychiatric screenings to weed out those unfit for the profession of space travel.

This is why only 360 people became NASA astronauts in the last 60 years | Discover

M. Scott Carpenter, an astronaut, lies on a bed with a biosensor on his head during astronaut training

As more and more people ventured into space, NASA began to understand the mental burden of space travel. And they are more focused in researching to find the most suitable person. Obviously, you wouldn’t want a companion who’s afraid of tight spaces, or simply afraid of opening hatches, which are ubiquitous on spaceships.

Be aware that going into space is an extremely stressful process. In 2016, NASA’s human research program released a report showing that crew members suffered major changes in sleep patterns, radiation exposure, changes in gravity, and long distances. extended periods of isolation.

This is why only 360 people became NASA astronauts in the last 60 years | Discover

Astronaut is an extremely stressful, and lonely job.

After becoming astronauts, crew members on the ISS will have to regularly talk to medical staff, including psychologists, through private video meetings.

Clearly, considering NASA’s ambitious goals of sending humans even further into space — to the moon and Mars, for example — in the not-too-distant future, maintaining mental health astronauts will be a long-term challenge.

Refer NASA, BI

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