Do You Have The Right Stuff?

I’m not a fan of New Kids on the Block, but this title just jumped out at me when I saw the story over at ARRL.ORG that NASA is looking for more astronauts. Currently there are only 59, where a decade ago, there was 150. Since the retirement of the Shuttle, the numbers have been going down.

Astronaut Stephen Robinson rides Canadarm2 during the STS-114 mission of the space shuttle Discovery to the ISS in 2005 August.

Photo Courtesy of NASA/APOD

It takes 2 and a half years to train to be an astronaut, on top of the years of college getting a degree. Then there is the 31 weeks of working in Russia to learn how the Soyuz craft work and learning Russian. It’s a pretty big commitment, but from what I can see, it has some big payback and perks. I mean, who wouldn’t want to fly a few hundred nautical  miles above the Earth in micro gravity?

But currently, the Soyuz is grounded because of the crash of a supply ship in August, while Russian space agency investigators troubleshoot what went wrong. This could lead to a short abandonment of the International Space Station if Russian officials find the problem quickly. But still, the need for astronauts for the manned space flight program is still there.

From the ARRL.ORG story:

NASA has said that it expects to send four to six astronauts to the ISS each year for six-month rotations. But the August crash of a Russian re-supply rocket has grounded the Soyuz, the only vehicle capable of flying crew members to the station. NASA noted that the Russian crash might lead the agency to temporarily abandon the ISS this fall unless the Russians quickly troubleshoot the problem. “We will understand, to our satisfaction, the anomaly, what is believed to be the cause and how they resolved it,” said NASA ISS Program Manager Michael Suffredini in a press conference after the crash. “If we’re not happy, we won’t put our astronauts on the Soyuz.” In April, NASA awarded $269 million to four companies developing craft to deliver cargo and crew to the space station.

This along with the time needed to train, could lead to a shortage in 5 years. So NASA is looking now. But I doubt you’ll find a posting for the job on Monster.com or Regionalhelpwanted.com. Still, if you possess  a pretty hefty degree and are in good physical shape, you could be the next NASA astronaut. And having a Ham Radio license is also a plus. Right now there are 4 Hams on the Space station. Ron Garan, KF5GPO (NASA), Mike Fossum, KF5AQG (NASA), Sergei Volkov, RU3DIS (RKA), and Satoshi Furukawa, KE5DAW (JAXA). And you can check out AMSAT or the ISS Fanclub for more info on working the ISS.

Rich Gattie, KB2MOB, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New York, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

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