NASA is hiring astronauts. Here’s how to apply (and what hazards come with the job).

Be warned: “Extensive” travel required. And your eyesight may never recover.

A black night sky is lit up by a burst of shooting light from a launched rocket, surrounded by orange smoke.
The Artemis I unmanned lunar rocket lifts off from launch pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on November 16, 2022. 
Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Brian Resnick is Vox’s science and health editor, and is the co-creator of Unexplainable, Vox’s podcast about unanswered questions in science. Previously, Brian was a reporter at Vox and at National Journal.

Being an astronaut comes with unique occupational challenges. What other job puts you at risk for your eyeball physically changing shape in microgravity, leading to permanent changes in eyesight? Or how about this hazard: Without the force of the Earth beneath our feet, bones become more brittle and muscles atrophy.

And the food, well, it sucks — by many accounts. (Which is not entirely the fault of the manufacturers of space food. In microgravity, food just tastes blander. Being in space does things to bodily fluids that make one feel like they always have a bit of a head cold.)

But despite the challenges, thousands still look to the stars and dream of themselves among them. The last time NASA opened up applications to become an astronaut in 2021, 12,000 people applied. And on Tuesday, just 10 people from that application pool graduated from NASA’s astronaut training program.

Now, the space agency is accepting applications again for its next class, and you can start your very own interstellar career by beginning with this form. The position pays a little more than $152,000 a year — not bad, right? But telework is not permitted (bummer), and the listing says “extensive travel required.” (The moon is nearly 239,000 miles away. Extensive!) The job posting does read like a kindergartner’s career wish list:

Major duties of the astronaut position include, but are not limited to:

Conduct operations in space, including on the International Space Station (ISS) and in the development and testing of future spacecraft.

Perform extravehicular activities (EVA) around spacecraft, space stations, and on planetary surfaces, use the robotic remote manipulator system, and participate in the development and testing of future extravehicular and robotic activities.

Conduct research experiments (including those on animals), operate as a safe member of an aircraft/spacecraft crew (including flight planning and communications), and perform spacecraft maintenance activities.


Serve as the public face of NASA, providing appearances across the country and internationally, and sharing NASA’s discoveries and goals.

But before NASA rockets you to space, you must complete two years of training. One newly graduated astronaut told AFP, the French newswire service, that the class had to spend a week in the Alabama backcountry, working on survival skills. When the final food ration was eaten, “we shared together one final bag of peanut M&Ms,” astronaut Christina Birch told AFP.

Despite the hardships, on the ground and in space, it is an exciting time to be an astronaut. NASA is setting its eyes on returning humans to the moon, with a crewed lunar flyby scheduled for later this year. Future missions might establish a more permanent human presence on the moon, and also help prepare for an eventual crewed mission to Mars. Astronauts are willing participants in an ongoing experiment: Will it be possible for humans to live in space long term? Many questions remain on the physiological and psychological impacts of space on human well-being (such as: how toxic is moon dust?).

If that sounds exciting to you, apply!

But note: Not everyone is qualified to be an astronaut. NASA is looking for people who either have a background as a pilot or have had a previous career in science, engineering, or medicine. “Interviews, medical and psychiatric screening and additional assessments will be required for applicants under final consideration,” the job description states.

Further reading: Life in space

  • Scientists are grappling with our biggest limitation in spaceflight: our own bodies
  • Space is deadly. NASA’s Artemis mission will help us learn how to survive it.
  • The top 7 ways a trip to Mars could kill you, illustrated
  • The space station race


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