How to become an astronaut: What you need to make it into space

Two astronauts facing eachother in space

Image: Getty Images/Peepo

Every year, on Career Day, classrooms are filled with little kids gleefully exclaiming they want to be astronauts when they grow up. Before NASA astronauts were sitting on a vessel, suited up, waiting to take off into space, they were children with the same dreams, too. 

“I wanted to be an astronaut since I was a little kid, actually, ” says Colonel Terry Virts, retired NASA astronaut and International Space Station (ISS) commander. “So I had pictures of the space shuttle and galaxies and everything on the wall when I was growing up.” 

Astronaut on moon during Apollo 11

US Astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin walking near the Lunar Module on 20 July, 1969 during the Apollo 11 space mission. 

Image: Getty Images/Contributor

Becoming an astronaut is still one of the top five career aspirations for children in the US and the UK, and number one for children in China, according to one study

Before Leroy Chiao, a NASA astronaut, ISS commander and research engineer, Ph.D., embarked on his three Space Shuttle flights and commanded Expedition 10, he was also a kid with a dream. 

“I was eight years old when Apollo 11 landed on the moon,” says Chiao to ZDNET. “And then going out later and looking at the moon and realizing that out there, almost a quarter of a million miles away, these two astronauts were getting ready to go take those first steps on the moon, that was like, ‘wow, that’s what I want to do.'”

After years of training, making it into orbit was was a life-changing experience for both astronauts.

“Seeing the Earth was more beautiful than I imagined — it was more powerful,” says Virts. “I thought I knew. I mean, I’d seen every movie, I had seen every book, I had been talking to astronauts for

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