NASA - Astronaut Selection
Follow this link to skip to the main content
+ Apply For NASA Jobs
+ Visit
+ Feedback



Astronaut Candidate  
Astronaut CandidatesThe astronaut candidates of 2004 are pictured here during training and other activities. Selections include both American and Japanese astronauts.
  Astronauts title  
Astronaut in space
  NASA Human Space Flight  
  + NASA Human Space Flight
+ International Space Agencies

Mission Specialist and Pilot Astronaut Candidate Brochure

Mission Specialists
and Pilot Astronaut Candidates

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has a need for Pilot Astronaut Candidates and Mission Specialist Astronaut Candidates to support the Space Shuttle and Space Station Programs. NASA is accepting applications on a continuous basis and plans to select Astronaut Candidates every two years, if needed.

Persons from both the civilian sector and the military services will be considered.

All positions are located at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston , Texas , and will involve a 1 to 2-year training and evaluation program.


Table of Contents

Space Shuttle Program Description Return to TOC

The flights of the Space Shuttle have demonstrated that operation and experimental investigations in space are a challenging endeavor. The Space Shuttle Orbiter is launched into, and maneuvers in Earth orbit, performing missions lasting up to 30 days. It then returns to Earth and is readied for another flight with new payloads and flight crew.

The Orbiter performs a variety of orbital missions including deployment and retrieval of satellites, service of existing satellites, operation of specialized laboratories (astronomy, earth sciences, materials processing, manufacturing), and other operations. The missions includes construction and servicing of the International Space Station. The Orbiter also provides a staging capability for using other propulsion sources to inject satellites into higher orbits than can be achieved by the Orbiter itself. Users of the Space Shuttle's capabilities are both domestic and foreign and include government agencies and private industries.

The crew normally consists of five people - the commander, the pilot, and three mission specialists. On occasion additional mission specialists, payload specialists, or other crew members are assigned. The commander, pilot, and mission specialists are NASA astronauts.

International Space Station Program Description Return to TOC

The International Space Station is the largest international scientific and technological endeavor ever undertaken. With the Space Station, a permanent laboratory will be established in a realm where gravity, temperature and pressure can be manipulated in a variety of scientific and engineering pursuits which are impossible in ground-based laboratories. The Space Station will be a testbed for the technologies of the future and a laboratory for research on new, advanced industrial materials, communications technology, and medical research.

When completed the Space Station will be 361 feet across and 290 feet long, and it will weigh about 925,000 pounds. Six people will live on the Space Station.

The Space Station will be a permanent orbiting laboratory in space capable of performing long-duration research in the unique environment of Earth orbit. The Space Station will maintain U.S. leadership in space and in global competitiveness; serve as a driving force for emerging technologies; forge new partnerships with the other spacefaring nations of the world; and satisfy humanity's need to explore.

Aboard the international laboratory, science crews will conduct medical research in space; develop new materials and processes to benefit industries on Earth; and accelerate breakthroughs in technology and engineering that will have immediate, practical applications for life on Earth and will create jobs and economic opportunities today and the decades to come.

Pilot Astronaut Duties Return to TOC

Pilot astronauts serve as both Space Shuttle commanders and pilots. During flight the commander has onboard responsibility for the vehicle, crew, mission success and safety of flight. The pilot assists the commander in controlling and operating the vehicle. In addition, the pilot may assist in the deployment and retrieval of satellites utilizing the remote manipulator system, in extravehicular activities, and in other payload operations.

Mission Specialist Astronaut Duties Return to TOC

Mission specialist astronauts, working with the commander and pilot, have overall responsibility for the coordination of Shuttle operations in the areas of crew activity planning, consumables usage, and experiment and payload operations. Mission specialists are required to have a detailed knowledge of Shuttle systems, as well as detailed knowledge of the operational characteristics, mission requirements and objectives, and supporting systems and equipment for each payload element on their assigned missions. Mission specialists will perform extravehicular activities, payload handling using the remote manipulator system, and perform or assist in specific experiment operations.

Basic Qualification Requirements Return to TOC

Applicants must meet the following minimum requirements prior to submitting an application:

Mission Specialist Astronaut Candidate

1.        Bachelor's degree from an accredited institution in engineering, biological science, physical science, or mathematics. Degree must be followed by at least three years of related, progressively responsible, professional experience. An advanced degree is desirable and may be substituted for part or all of the experience requirement (master's degree = 1 year of experience, doctoral degree = 3 years of experience). Quality of academic preparation is important.

2.        Ability to pass a NASA space physical, which is similar to a military or civilian flight physical and includes the following specific standards:

o        Distance visual acuity: 20/200 or better uncorrected, correctable to 20/20, each eye.

o        Blood pressure: 140/90 measured in a sitting position.

3.        Height between 58.5 and 76 inches.

Pilot Astronaut Candidate

1.        Bachelor's degree from an accredited institution in engineering, biological science, physical science, or mathematics. An advanced degree is desirable. Quality of academic preparation is important.

2.        At least 1,000 hours pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. Flight test experience is highly desirable.

3.        Ability to pass a NASA space physical which is similar to a military or civilian flight physical and includes the following specific standards:

o        Distant visual acuity: 20/100 or better uncorrected, correctable to 20/20 each eye.

o        Blood pressure: 140/90 measured in a sitting position.

o        Height between 64 and 76 inches.


Notes on Academic Requirements Return to TOC

Applicants for the Astronaut Candidate Program must meet the basic education requirements for NASA engineering and scientific positions - specifically: successful completion of standard professional curriculum in an accredited college or university leading to at least a bachelor's degree with major study in an appropriate field of engineering, biological science, physical science, or mathematics. The following degree fields, while related to engineering and the sciences, are not considered qualifying:

  • Degrees in Technology (Engineering Technology, Aviation Technology, Medical Technology, etc.)
  • Degrees in Psychology (except for Clinical Psychology, Physiological Psychology, or Experimental Psychology which are qualifying).
  • Degrees in Nursing.
  • Degrees in Exercise Physiology or similar fields
  • Degrees in Social Sciences (Geography, Anthropology, Archaeology, etc.).
  • Degrees in Aviation, Aviation Management, or similar fields.

Citizenship Requirements Return to TOC

Applicants for the Astronaut Candidate Program must be citizens of the United States .

Application Procedures  Return to TOC


To apply for a position as a civilian astronaut, you must apply through the Federal Government's online recruitment process at A vacancy announcement will be released through USAJOBS and you must apply to that vacancy announcement in order to be considered. NASA will accept applications on an as needed basis. Please check our website for updates. For additional information regarding the Astronaut Candidate Program contact

Active Duty Military 

Active duty military personnel must submit applications to their respective military service and not directly to NASA. Application procedures will be disseminated by each service.

Selection Return to TOC

Following the preliminary screening of applications, additional information may be requested from some applicants, and individuals listed in the application as supervisors and references may be contacted. Applicants who are being considered as finalists for interview may be required to obtain a flight physical.

A week-long process of personal interviews, thorough medical evaluations, and orientation will be required for both civilian and military applicants under final consideration. Once final selections have been made, all applicants will be notified of the outcome of the process.

General Program Requirements Return to TOC

Selected applicants will be designated Astronaut Candidates and will be assigned to the Astronaut Office at the Johnson Space Center , Houston , Texas . The astronaut candidates will undergo a 1 to 2-year training and evaluation period during which time they will participate in the basic astronaut training program which is designed to develop the knowledge and skills required for formal mission training upon selection for a flight. Pilot astronaut candidates will maintain proficiency in NASA aircraft during their candidate period.

As part of the Astronaut Candidate training program, Astronaut Candidates are required to complete military water survival prior to beginning their flying syllabus, and become SCUBA qualified to prepare them for the extravehicular activity training. Consequently, all Astronaut Candidates will be required to pass a swimming test during their first month of training. They must swim 3 lengths of a 25M pool without stopping, and then swim 3 lengths of the pool in a flightsuit and tennis shoes. The strokes allowed are freestyle, breast, and sidestroke. There is no time limit. They must also tread water continuously for 10 minutes.

Applicants should be aware that selection as an astronaut candidate does not insure selection as an astronaut. Final selection as an astronaut will depend upon satisfactory completion of the training and evaluation period. Civilian candidates who successfully completed the training and evaluation and are selected as astronauts will become permanent Federal employees and will be expected to remain with NASA for a period of at least five years. Civilian candidates who are not selected as astronauts may be placed in other positions within NASA depending upon Agency requirements and manpower constraints at that time. Successful military candidates will be detailed to NASA for a specified tour of duty.

NASA has an affirmative action program goal of having qualified minorities and women among those selected as astronaut candidates. Therefore, qualified minorities and women are encouraged to apply.

Pay and Benefits Return to TOC


Salaries for civilian astronaut candidates are based on the Federal Government's General Schedule pay scales for grades GS-11 through GS-13, and are set in accordance with each individual's academic achievements and experience.

Other benefits include vacation and sick leave, a retirement plan, and participation in group health and life insurance plans.


Selected military personnel will be detailed to the Johnson Space Center but will remain in an active duty status for pay, benefits, leave, and other similar military matters.
+ Inspector General Hotline
+ No  Fear Act
+ Budgets, Strategic Plans and Accountability Reports
+ Freedom of Information Act
+ The President's Management Agenda
+ NASA Privacy Statement, Disclaimer, and Accessibility    Certification
+ JSC Web Accessibility and Policy Notices
NASA Official: Mike McCann
Last Updated: June 29, 2007
+ Astronaut Selection Curator
+ Contact Phone: 1-877-NSSC123
OPM Home