Text – Pankhuri Kumar, Editing – Anobik Saha
Many dream of being an astronaut one day but it comes with a lot of hard work, perseverance, focus and a bit of luck.
To actually become one, you require sound scientific and functional knowledge and be prepared to apply all your learning real-time in the most unforgiving of situations. Physical and mental fitness and excellent communication skills is a top priority. Finally, being passionate about your ambition and being relentless will help you achieve it. It also comes with a lot of responsibilities. Besides, life is going to be full of adventure throughout. However, it is entirely up to you how far you want to go and how you will want to work your way up.
Astronauts are trained by specific spaceflight programs to work as the pilot or as a team member in the same spacecraft. The team travel to space to conduct experiments or to repair/replace parts of satellites.
What are astronauts responsible for?
Becoming an astronaut is strenuous and involves intense physical and mental training. They are expected to be knowledgeable about commanding a space shuttle and be adept at managing problems faced by the space shuttle and/or it’s various components. A vital responsibility includes ensuring the safety of all crew members and the spacecraft. Astronauts also need to be alert at all times, about the situation within and outside the spacecraft. Regular maintenance operations and reporting to the base station is an elemental part of the job. Exercise is essential for maintaining stamina as space walks can sometimes last for more than 7 hours. Physical and mental fitness is mandatory because the smallest of details need to be recorded as anything can prove to be fatal.
How Can You become an Astronaut in India?
Becoming an Astronaut while living anywhere in the world is a big call. The dream becomes a reality after a continuous and lifelong commitment to the dream. Indians need to start early. Right after the board exams in the 10th standard, students need to take up the core science disciplines including Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics, following which they need to apply for a Bachelor’s Degree from one of the highly acclaimed universities like the IITs and IISC. The degree can be focused on Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Biology, Aerospace Engineering or Physical Sciences. Post graduation, aspirants need to complete a Ph.D. in Astrophysics, Geophysics or Metaphysics. At this point, the candidate will get to specialize in a certain stream. Once the Ph.D. is complete, aspirants need to take an entrance test for which there are two options –
- Clearing the ‘Joint Entrance Exam’ help by the IITs through which one can join ISRO
- Clearing the entrance exam held by NASA for the recruitment of scientists and astronauts
To become a Mission Specialist, three years of relevant work experience in mandatory. Once the screening test is complete, aspirants can submit an online form. This will be followed by professional and psychological aptitude tests testing the individual’s logical application capabilities. The next steps include the medical evaluation and a personal interview. The Personal Interview is the hardest because only 2-3 candidates are eventually selected.
What are the eligibility criteria for being an Astronaut in India?
1) For ISRO, the candidate needs to be an Indian
2) The candidate should be at least 21 years old but the age limit is flexible for SC/ST categories
3) A certain height and mathematical skills are also required
How much does an Astronaut in India earn?
The monthly salary range for an ISRO employee is between INR 40,000-85,000. Employees receive more benefits including accommodation, tuition fees for their children, pension, etc. As one goes up the ladder, the pay increases accordingly.
Astronauts live an exciting life, as they are able to do things and go to places that are out-of-bounds for most. They have long work hours but are also provided long and paid vacations after their exhausting missions.
How is the competition in this space?
To be able to travel to space, aspirants need to be the best in the world, not just in one’s own country. They need to be adaptable to ever-changing situations and environmental conditions, dedicated to the cause which is always an expensive affair, be adept at taking high-impact decisions, exhibit good leadership and communicate effectively. Family life will be scanty and life will be full of taking fatal risks. However, the journey will be more exciting and mesmerizing than the downsides.
Every person has infinite untapped potential to becoming an Astronaut. It is easy to dream, difficult to turn it into reality but not impossible. So, if you dream it, do it because you can. It will never be easy and you will need to give up a lot of things for pursuing this dream but it’s going to be worth the effort. Always remember that once you become an Astronaut, you will become an inspiration to millions, who will look up to you and ask for your advice. You will have the opportunity to change the world and the course of humanity through path breaking discoveries.
And there is much left, undiscovered in space…
Editorial Note: If you would like to explore more awesome careers from our series on ‘Inspiring Careers in India’, then click here.
Pankhuri Kumar is a student of Economics (Honours) at Hindu College, University of Delhi. She is a big believer in the power of positivity and plans to do her MBA in the future. In her free time, Pankhuri can be found checking out new places to eat and shop at.
Anobik is passionate about his purposeful work as a digital marketing professional at a U.S.-based leadership tech development start-up. In the past, his intellectual pursuits led him to explore several domains that include working as a graphic designer, freelance writer, proscenium theatre artist and learning French. After work hours, he dedicates time to his lo-fi music production and prepping for the next trek in the Himalayas. His recent trysts with meditation and yoga now take up most of his headspace, pondering over and learning about the boundaries of human potential, breakthroughs in neuroscience and emotional intelligence. His favorite movies are Into the Wild, Frances Ha and Valley Uprising.