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Astronaut Selection and Training

Astronaut Selection and Training

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Published by Bob Andrepont

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Published by: Bob Andrepont on Jun 24, 2011
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Astronaut Selection and Braining
the mid 1990's, Americans will be living and working in space. Thescience fiction characters of yesteryearwillcome to life as flesh and blood astronauts, scientists, technicians, and specialists engaged in transportation,servicing, manufacturing, and research. Men and women who man the Space Station will learn to adapt to thepeculiarities of life in a weightless environment where they float from place to place, add a dab of water to makefreeze-dried meals come to life, and shower with floating globules of water. The frontiers of space are continuallymoving outward and Space Station is man's next step into the universe.
History of Astronaut Selection Shuttle Era Astronaut Candidate Recruiting
Man's scope of space exploration has broadened since thefirst U.S. manned space flight in 1961. But the Nation cannever forget the original seven space pilots who focusedour vision on the stars. In 1959, the National Aeronauticsand Space Administration (NASA) asked the U.S. militaryservices to list their members who met specific quslifications.In seeking its first astronauts, NASA required jet aircraftflight experience and engineering training as well as heightbelow 5 feet 11 inches because of limited cabin spaceavailable in the Mercury space capsule being designed.After many series of intense physical and psychologicalscre,enings, NASA selected seven men from an original fieldof 500 candidates. They were Lieutenant M. Scott Car~enter;Air Force Captains
Gordon Cooper, Jr., ~ir~il'"Gus"Grissom, and Donald
"Deke" Slayton; Marine LieutenantColonel John
Glenn, Jr.; and Navy Lieutenant Com-manders Walter
Schirra, Jr. and Alan B. Shepard, Jr.Each man flew in Project Mercury except Slayton, who wasgrounded for medical reasons. Sixteen years later, Slaytonwas an American crewmember of the Apollo-Soyuz TestProject, the world's first internaGonal manned space flight.Nine pilot astronauts were chosen in September 1962, andfourteen more were selected in October 1963. By then,prime emphasis had shifted away from flight experienceand toward superior academic qualifications. In October1964, applications were invited on the basis of educationalbackground alone. These were the scientist astronauts, socalled because the 400-plus applicants who met minimumrequirements had a doctorate or equivalent experience inthe natural sciences, medicine, orengineering. Of these400applicants, six were selected in June 1965.The first group of astronaut candidates since the SpaceShuttle Program began was selected in January 1378. InJuly of that year, they began a rigorous training andevaluation period at NASA's Johnson Space Center toqualify for subsequent assignment for future'space Shuttleflight crews. This group of 20 mission specialists and 15pilots completed training and went from astronaut candidatestatus to astronaut (active status) in August 1979. Six of the35 were women and four were members of minorities.Three groups of pilots and mission specialists have beenadded since then: 19 in July 1980, 17 in July 1984, and 13 inAu~ust 985.In April 1966,19 pilot astronautswere named and in August1967, 11 scientist astronauts were added to the program.When the Air Force Manned Orbiting Laboratory programwas cancelled in mid-1 969, seven astronaut traineestransferred to NASA.
One of the goals of the Space Transportation System (STS) is the expansion of the Nation's research capabilities in the spaceenvironment. The STS provides the opportunity for onboard participation of scientific investigators or other representatives ofthe payload research community, as well as individuals selected by major payload customers who reimburse NASA. Theparticipation of these payload specialists, as they are called, enhances the probability of successful achievement of theirscientific or technical mission objectives.
Space Shuttle Crew Positions
Pilot AstronautsPilot astronauts serve as both Space Shuttle commandersand pilots. During flight, the commander hasonboardresponsibility for the vehicle, crew, mission success, andsafety of flight. The pilot assists the commander incontrolling and operating the vehicle. In addition, the pilotmay assist in the deployment and retrieval of satellites usingthe robot arm in spacewalks, and in other payload operations.Mission Specialist AstronautsMission specialist astronauts, working with thecommanderand pilot, have overall responsibility for the coordination ofSpace Shuttle operations in the areas of crew activityplanning, consumables usage, and experiment and payloadoperations. Mission specialists are required to have adetailed knowledge of the Space Shuttle systems, as well asdetailed knowledge of the operational characteristics,mission requirements and objectives, and supportingsystems and equipment for each of the experiments to beconducted on their assigned missions. Mission specialistsperform spacewalks and payload handling using the robotarm, and perform or assist in specific experiment operations.Payload SpecialistsFor information about opportunities in this field, write toNASA Headquarters, Attn: Code OST-5, Washington, D.C.20546. If you are not a citizen of the United States, you mayinstead wish to contact the appropriate government agencywithin your own country.
Astronaut Candidate Program
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration acceptsapplications on a continuous basis and selects astronautcandidates as needed. Civilians and military personnel areconsidered forthe one-yeartraining program. Current regula-tions require that preference for appointment to vacantpositions be given to U.S. citizens when they are available.For information on pilot astronaut or mission specialistopportunities, write to Astronaut Selection Office, Mail CodeAHX, Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas 77058.
General Program Requirements
Selected applicants are designated astronaut candidatesand are assigned to the Astronaut Office at Johnson SpaceCenter. During the one-year training and evaluation period,they are assigned technical or scientific responsibilities andthey participate in the astronaut training program designedto develop the knowledge and skills required for formblmission training upon selection for a flight. Final selectionis made after the one-year program.Payload Specialists are primarily professionals in the
Basic Qualification Requirements
physical and life sciences, or technicians skilled in theoperation of unique equipment. The selection of a payloadspecialist fora particular mission is the responsibility of thepayload sponsor or customer. In the case of a NASA-sponsored mission, payload specialist candidates areidentified by an Investigator Working Group (IWG), andfinal selection is approved by NASA. Payload specialistswho fly in support of a major payload customer are selecteddirectly by the sponsoring company or organization. Theyneed not be U.S. citizens. All selected individuals mustcomply with NASA-established health and physical fitnessstandards.Once accepted, the payload specialist undergoes dualtraining. Training related to the operation of the payload orexperiment may take place at an industrial facility, auniversity, or a government agency. The second type oftraining
light familiarization
s required for everymission and takes place at the Johnson Space Center. Thisflight training familiarizes the payload specialist with theSpace Shuttle and payload support equipment, crewoperations, housekeeping, and emergency proceduresrelated to his or her flight.For mission specialists and pilot astronaut candidates, thebasic education requirement is at least a bachelor's degreewith major study in engineering, biological science, physicalscience, or mathematics from an accredited college oruniversity. Mission specialist applicants must also have
years of professional, related experience. Pilot astronautcandidates must have at least 1,000 hours pilot-in-commandtime in jet aircraft. Payload specialists must have theappropriateeducation and training related to the payload orexperiment. All applicants must meet certain physicalrequirements and must pass NASA space physical examina-tions with varying standards depending on classification.
Training Activities
Once selected, astronauts have a busy schedule of schoolingand training in preparation for space flight. They studybasic science and technology courses such as mathematics,Earth resources, meteorology, guidance and navigation,astronomy, physics, and computers.For astronauts to learn to live and work in a weightlessenvironment, they train for functioning in zero-gravity withvarious simulation experiences. The KC-135 jet aircraft,modified for astronaut training, gives the effect of a rapidlydescending elevatorwhen flown "over the top" of a parabolicpath. During this zero-gravity period lasting about 30seconds, astronauts practice drinking, eating, and usingvarious types of equipment. Longer periods of weight-lessness are simulated under conditions of "neutral buoy-ancy" in a specially designed water tank large enough tohold full-scale mockups of spacecraft components andequipment.To become accustomed to working in a pressurized spacesuit, astronauts spend many mission training sessions inthe suit.Space Shuttle pilot astronauts land the spacecraft muchlike an aircraft on a runway. Therefore, conventional andmodified aircraft are used to practiceapproach and landings.The four-engine KC-135 jet provides experience in handlinglarge, heavy aircraft and the modified Grumman GulfstreamII aircraft, designated "Shuttle Training Aircraft" (STA),simulate the handling characteristics of the Orbiter forlanding practice.Through attendance at engineering conferences and reviewmeetings, astronauts keep informed about spacecraft,payload, and launch vehicle design', development, andmodification activities.Astronauts maintain flight readiness through regularuseofhigh-performance aircraft assigned to the johnson SpaceCenter and based at nearby Ellington Field. Physicalconditioning, for both pilot astronauts and mission special-ists, is a matter of individual need and preference. Gym-nasium facilities are available.
Flight Assignments
When assigned to a flight crew, ah astronaut undertakes abusy schedule. Crews are named for specific flights well inadvance of the launch date and because of the frequentflights of the Space Shuttle, several crews may be in training
the same time.Each crew receives cross-training so that at least onecrewmember can handle the most critical duties of eachassociate. Thus, an ill or injured crewmember can berelieved in flight without compromising the mission.Each crew takes part in spacecraft reviews and test programsthat let each crewmember become familiar with a spacecraft.These reviews include briefings on the spacecraft, thespacecraft systems, and guidance and navigation.

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