Ask the Astronaut: What qualities do I need to become an astronaut?

NASA’s latest class of astronauts is a mix of former military pilots, scientists and engineers. (NASA)

Q: What qualities do I need now and in coming years to become an astronaut? (Federico Cafferi, Milan Italy)

If you dream of going to space, it is never too early to start working toward that goal. When I applied to be an astronaut, I could honestly tell members of the astronaut selection board that I had been studying spaceflight and NASA’s work for 25 years, starting when I was 10 years old. This showed the board my long-term interest, determination, and seriousness toward pursuing an astronaut career.

I have learned that no one else will push you through the many steps needed to get into space. You alone are responsible for getting the education and job experience needed to start knocking on NASA’s door. Many people will help you along the way: parents, teachers, instructor pilots, co-workers, professors, and fellow students. But you will be the one to choose your spaceflight goal, and you will have to do the work necessary to reach it.

Choose your own guiding star, work to reach it, and never lose sight of it. As Yogi Berra, the late Hall of Fame baseball catcher, reputedly said: “If you don’t know where you’re going, there’s a good chance you’ll wind up someplace else.”

Have a question of your own? Ask the Astronaut.
About Tom Jones

Former astronaut Tom Jones is a scientist, author, and pilot. In more than eleven years with NASA, Tom flew on four space shuttle missions to Earth orbit. On his last flight, he led three spacewalks to install the centerpiece of the International Space Station, the American Destiny laboratory. He has spent 53 days working and living in space. He is is currently writing “Space Shuttle Voices,” recording astronaut experiences during the space shuttle’s 30-year career. See his full bio here.

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