Most people think of NASA when discussing space exploration, but few people know that Canada is also a major player in the game. So, how do you get there to such heights (literally and figuratively)?
In this article, I’ll talk about how to become an astronaut in Canada and update you on the common skills, responsibilities, and average salaries of an astronaut.
Strap in and get ready to blast off!
How to Become an Astronaut in Canada?
The road toward becoming an astronaut in Canada can be long and complex, requiring knowledge and abilities from many different fields. A variety of social and interpersonal abilities must be possessed, but also some physical requirements as well.
Although the Canada Space Agency states that Canadian residents would be given priority, applications are accepted from any Canadian citizens, whether they reside in Canada or overseas.
Canadian astronauts are often people who have excelled academically and earned expertise in a field related to what it takes to be an astronaut, such as commanding a ship or flying an Air Force jet. So let’s take a look at the steps you need to take to become an astronaut in Canada.
1. Get a Bachelor’s Degree in STEM
First things first, if you really want to become an astronaut, you’re going to need some solid education.
Astronauts are usually STEM degree holders, i.e. science, technology, engineering and mathematics. What is more, you would also need to obtain a degree from an accredited university. The actual studies will generally take you around 3-4 years.
2. Get a Master’s Degree or Ph.D.
A master’s degree is comparable to one year of experience, according to the Canadian Space Agency, whereas a doctorate is equivalent to three years of experience.
This means that you can either get an MS and a PhD, or alternatively, find a job and gain some working experience.
If you have the right to practice medicine in Canada, know that the CSA also acknowledges the time spent working in the medical industry.
3. Gain Professional Experience
It is advised that candidates acquire experience from a job that is related to your field.
NASA expects its astronauts to have at least three years of progressive experience in a field
related to their degree – positions which may include computer work, ship commandeering and navigation, or at least 1,000 hours of experience as a pilot in command of an air jet.
On a positive note, you don’t have to obtain a specific licence to become an astronaut in Canada, so you can just submit your application if you consider yourself well-educated and experienced.
You might find these articles relevant:
4. Meet the Physical and Medical Requirements
Since astronauts spend a lot of time in space, they have to be in excellent shape, both physically and mentally.
The expected physical requirements to be an astronaut are strict and include a height between 149.5 and 190.5 metres, weight between 50 kg and 90 kg, distant and near visual acuity of 20/20 in each eye (a refractive surgical procedure of the eye is acceptable, as well as wearing glasses), normal hearing, and blood pressure of 140/90 maximum in a sitting position.
5. Apply to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA)
Once you have the qualifications, you are ready to apply to the CSA.
If you have valid dual citizenship, you are eligible to apply, but it is not advised that you change your nationality just to qualify for the Astronaut Candidate Program. When it comes to age, there are no official guidelines, however, note that previously chosen candidates were in the ballpark of 26 to 46, with an average age of 34.
Unfortunately, out of thousands of applications, only a few astronauts are recruited each year, but don’t let that stop you from sending your application.
6. Complete Basic Training in Texas
Once chosen for the program, you’ll need to complete two years of basic training in Houston, Texas. To acquire all the knowledge and skills, you’ll take part in both classroom and simulation training, such as taking up flying, performing spacewalks, learning how to use robotics or what it means to live in space in general.
Additionally, you’ll learn the right way to put on a spacesuit and train space simulations, which include air being cut off from its source, spacecraft engine issues, and other things that might occur in space. Sounds fun, eh?
7. Earn Your Title
Once you successfully finish the training program and earn the astronaut title, candidates advance to the following stage of training. Despite having its own space agency, Canada still sends its astronauts to the US for more thorough training. After being chosen, astronauts are expected to work for NASA for at least five years.
View this post on Instagram
Additional Requirements to Become an Astronaut in Canada
Aside from the actual procedure, the astronaut selection requires a couple of other things as well. The following skills can aid astronauts and other crew members in navigating unexpected situations while on a space mission.
In order to become an astronaut in Canada, candidates are required to be fluent in English or French. Being bilingual in both English and French, however, gives you an edge over other applicants.
Also, a third language is highly desirable. The second official language of the International Space Station (ISS) is Russian, so knowing it is a plus, but it’s not obligatory.
Secret Security Clearance
Candidates for astronaut positions must undergo a background check and be qualified for at least a secret level of security clearance. An extensive background check of character and finances is required, and a drug or alcohol misuse history may prohibit someone from applying.
So, candidates that show a history of criminal behaviour, excessive drinking, or association with political extremists of any kind can be disqualified.
Willingness to Relocate
If an astronaut overcomes the physical challenges of spaceflight, they must also deal with isolation and being apart from the closest family. Living together for three to six months or longer in close quarters with complete strangers can be difficult.
During training, which lasts for two years and includes a lot of travel practice, astronauts must learn to adjust to such extended times away from home.
What Skills Do Astronauts Need?
Now that we’ve gone through the requirements, let’s talk about the skills that make one a good astronaut in Canada. Let’s go through them together.
Given how astronauts go through extensive physical training, you might have realized so far that you need to be a fit person in order to apply for this peculiar job position.
You’ll go through strenuous physical exams during training to make sure you are fully prepared. Therefore, to satisfy the physical demands of the profession, you are obligated to constantly work on your physical stamina, even in space.
It is crucial for an astronaut to be able to react quickly, so space organisations need applicants who can exhibit outstanding stress and risk management abilities that allow them to make harsh decisions in the spur of the moment.
People who are accustomed to working in hazardous conditions, such as those in the military or emergency service technicians, unquestionably possess transferable abilities.
When astronaut recruiters make a selection, an important contributing factor is a strong moral compass and integrity. Aside from this, recruiters are looking for mindful people that are willing to contribute to the community.
Another crucial quality is critical thinking, which allows you to evaluate the merits and shortcomings of various solutions, conclusions, or methods for solving problems by using reasoning and logic.
These abilities are very useful since astronauts frequently need to make split-second decisions. They can assist in making sure you carry out all of your duties properly to keep everyone safe.
Candidates should highlight any specific training or qualifications in communication skills and public speaking on their application as NASA values these “talents” highly.
To communicate with your team both on the ground and in the spacecraft, you must possess good written and verbal communication abilities. Astronauts are often required to give inspiring speeches, so taking public speaking classes will be of great benefit to you if you don’t have any experience.
If you consider yourself a person that can provide inspiration and guidance to people, you probably possess leadership skills and NASA will like that.
In order to cooperate with other astronauts, you also have to possess good interpersonal skills, but also be able to work in a team.
Teamwork makes the dream work, eh?
To keep each other safe in space, you and your team members must be able to establish solid, reliable relationships. Therefore, teamwork skills are essential to the accomplishment of a mission and the safety of the crew.
An astronaut must be quick to adapt because he works in many surroundings all the time. Being resourceful can make both the trip and transition easier because as you may imagine, living in space differs greatly from life on Earth.
You may have a way planned for your mission, but in some cases, everything can change due to unprectable reasons, so you’ll have to alter your plans to complete your objective.
As an astronaut, you must be able to inspire both yourself and your crew. Finding techniques to encourage yourself might aid you in keeping your concentration on your work because you’ll spend a lot of time away from your family and friends.
View this post on Instagram
How Much Do Astronauts Get Paid?
Due to the nature of their job and the strict conditions one must satisfy prior to becoming an astronaut, astronauts are recognised to be among the highest-paid jobs in Canada.
So, how much do astronauts get paid?
Well, their salaries depend on different factors such as their rank, experience, and the agency they work for. However, the average astronaut salary in Canada is around $100,000 yearly, with some extra compensation for healthcare and housing.
In addition to their astronaut salary, they also receive other benefits from this job, such as medical coverage, paid holidays and leave, as well as retirement plans. Because of the dangerous nature of their job, once they retire, they are eligible for different types of compensation, in the form of medical care and pension, provided by NASA.
So, even though astronauts are not paid for life, they still enjoy a number of benefits that assist in balancing the dangers associated with their field of work.
Being an astronaut is definitely not an easy job, but it’s surely a challenging and lucrative career.
People who want to become astronauts are usually individuals interested in a unique profession that want to stand out from others with their courage but are also committed to training, education and development over a career.
Hopefully, my article on how to become an astronaut in Canada helped you form a clearer picture about astronauts in Canada, as well as requirements to become one.
The process of becoming one is not easy since candidates must complete two years of training, pass strict physical tests and classroom studying, and speak two (or three) languages fluently. Additionally, they need to show skills such as teamwork, leadership, stamina etc.
In order to become an astronaut, one must fulfil some specific requirements, which include a bachelor’s degree in STEM, professional experience in a field related to your degree, physical and medical requirements as well as the completion of a training.