What NASA Pays Astronauts (Average Salary)
Learn the astronaut salary. How much do astronauts get paid? Astronaut jobs are in high demand, and only a handful are accessible to individuals who satisfy the physical requirements and are well-qualified. An astronaut's compensation will be determined by whether or not they are employed by the military or have experience as a civilian astronaut.
What is an astronaut?
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) coined the term astronaut (which means "sailor amid the stars") in 1958 to describe the men and women who would be trained to journey into space. At around the same time, the Soviet space agency coined the word cosmonaut (which means "universal sailor").
An astronaut's job description in the early days was essentially that of an observer — someone who would watch and document what was going on. It didn't take NASA long to realize that human involvement would be necessary.
Mission specialist astronauts
Astronauts who operate as mission specialists assist pilots in conducting experiments, launching satellites, and maintaining spacecraft and equipment. Engineers, scientists, and doctors all have backgrounds in engineering, science, and medicine. They can also serve as astronaut instructors, encouraging youngsters to choose a career in the United States space program.
Pilot Astronauts are the pilots and commanders of the space shuttle and the international space station. They are in charge of the crew, the mission, the mission's success, and the flight's safety.
A neutral buoyancy simulator, which replicates weightlessness on Earth, and a 200' long and 40' deep pool, where astronauts practice for spacewalks underwater, are among the simulators and equipment available at the Johnson Space Center to prepare astronauts for their job in space.
The majority of time spent in orbit is spent in the ship or space station. An astronaut must wear a space suit or an EMU (extravehicular mobility unit) for protection when a spacewalk is necessary to conduct repairs or deploy a satellite. Most missions take two to three weeks, although longer missions might last up to six months. Long-duration mission training is extremely difficult and requires two to three years.
Civilian astronaut salaries
Civilian astronauts will be paid differently depending on their academic accomplishments and experience. They're ranked from GS-11 through GS-14.
Here are some of the most frequent astronaut salaries, as well as how they are classified, according to NASA:
- GS-11 astronauts average starting salary: $66,026 per year.
- GS-14 astronauts can earn up to $144,566 per year.
This is roughly 51% greater than the U.S. Average base salary.
The Federal Government's General Schedule (GS) pay scale states that a GS-12 can make $65,140 per year while a GS-13 can make as much as $100,701 per year. Their levels are determined based on their academic achievements and experience.
Because the government uses grading to decide how much white-collar career professionals earn, pay varies depending on years of service and acceptable performance.
Learn about the pay grade scales on these two tables.
Civilian astronaut benefits:
- Healthcare and vision.
- Paid travel.
- Paid holidays.
- State-of-the-art training facilities.
- Paid leave.
Military astronaut benefits:
- Housing allowances up to $1845 per month.
- Aviation career incentive pay.
- Healthcare and vision.
- Paid leave.
- Paid travel.
Military astronaut salaries
Military astronauts are assigned to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, and their salary, leave, benefits, and other military concerns are all based on their active duty status. Military astronaut candidates are generally commissioned officers who have served on active duty for at least five years.
The following two tables show the monthly salary scales:
NASA astronaut training
Astronaut candidates report to the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas, which has trained over 300 American astronauts and 50 astronauts from other countries during the course of its fifty-year history. In addition, an increasing number of Americans are training at Star City, a cosmonaut training center near Moscow (especially since the end of the U.S. space shuttle program in 2011).
The first part, which lasts two years, is basic training. The majority of the training takes place in the classroom, and the applicants learn about vehicle and space station systems. Meteorology, engineering, space science, and earth sciences are among the subjects studied because they may be useful in their work in space.
In order to prepare for an unanticipated arrival return on Earth, military-water-and-land-survival training must also be performed outside of the classroom (military-water-and-land-survival). Candidates must get scuba certification and pass a swimming test in which they must swim three lengths of a 25-meter (82-foot) pool without stopping, followed by three lengths in a flight suit and tennis shoes with no time restriction. In addition, they must tread water for 10 minutes while wearing a flight suit. Within the first month of instruction, both the scuba certification and the swimming exam must be accomplished.
Second phase training
After completing basic training, candidates may be chosen to become astronauts. During the second phase, the trainees are paired with experienced astronauts and learn a range of pre-launch, launch, orbit, entry, and landing operations with their guidance. The veteran astronauts also share their expertise and experiences with the trainees, acting as mentors and counselors.
Training for advanced missions
The astronauts get their crew and mission assignments during the advanced mission training phase (which lasts 10 months). They concentrate on exercises, activities, and experiments that are directly linked to their goal, as well as being acquainted with the power tools and other specific gadgets they will use throughout their mission.
Becoming an astronaut
Here's how to become an astronaut.
Candidates for astronaut positions might come from both the civilian and military sectors. All astronaut candidates must be citizens of the United States and hold a bachelor's degree in science, engineering, biology, physics, or mathematics.
All applicants must also pass the NASA long-duration space travel physical, which includes minimum criteria for vision acuity, blood pressure, and standing height.
Candidates who are not pilots must have at least three years of professional experience in a similar field. An advanced degree is desired and may be substituted for experience (one year of experience equals a master's degree, three years of experience equals a doctorate degree). Teaching experience is considered qualified experience for the astronaut candidate job, and includes experience from kindergarten through grade 12.
Pilot applicants should have a bachelor's degree and at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command experience in a jet aircraft. Experience with flight tests is very appreciated.
Astronaut candidates' applications are evaluated, and those who are selected are asked to participate in a week-long process of interviews, medical screening, and orientation. Candidates are assigned to the Astronaut Office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where they will receive training.
Our favorite resources are included below.
Job interview resources
- Common Interview Questions by Marquette University
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- Mock Interview Handbook by CSUCI
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