Want to go to infinity and beyond — here’s how to make a career in space

Want to explore careers in space. If you are an ardent space fan and want to explore the outer universe, a STEM education provides a plethora of opportunities to kick-start this exciting job opportunity. In this article, Astronaut Today lists down some of the space science career opportunities which are not just limited to an astronaut. In fact, while astronauts make up a sizeable number of space workforce, their selection criteria is rigorous.

Must have skills to become an astronaut

According to NASA, some of the astronaut requirements are:

  1. Stringent physical fitness
  2. Flight test experience and a minimum 1000 hours of pilot in-command time
  3. Bachelor’s degree in mathematics, engineering, physical science or biological science and they prefer advanced degrees as well

However, making it to this job is hard and competition is fierce. But there are still a lot of ways to make a start for a career in space exploration.

Some of the job roles you can explore to start a career in space:

Aerospace or Aeronautical Engineers: Becoming an aerospace or aeronautical engineer will definitely open a lot of doors and you can start by working with aerospace biggies such as Boeing and Airbus on the design of aircraft. There are many opportunities for aerospace engineers in commercial and military as well.

In fact, avionics, a sub-field of aeronautical engineering has gained traction over the last few years, thanks to the surge of private space companies. Avionics powers the electronic systems that are used in space crafts, artificial satellites and aircraft.  The Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology offers a B.Tech Avionics Programme that equips students with electrical, electronics and computer systems knowledge and teaches control system modelling and control design. To get a better idea of upcoming jobs in avionics, have a look at what Elon Musk backed SpaceX is looking for.

Space Scientists: Earning a doctoral degree in astrophysics, astronomy and even physics can pave the way to become a space scientist. Space scientists give us a peek inside universe’s best kept secrets such as undiscovered black holes and this career is grounded in physics. Astrophysics is one branch of space science that uses physics to understand the distance, life, birth of planets, galaxies, starts and other objects in the universe. The other two branches – astronomy and cosmology deal with the position, motions and luminosities of the objects in the universe.  In fact, theoretical astrophysics was birthed by Newton who applied the rules of mechanics he used on the surface of earth to study how planets moved in space.

Rocket Scientists fall under a broad category of aerospace engineers and their work goes beyond aircraft design

Rocket Scientist: From engineering duties such as designing and constructing spacecrafts and missiles to testing equipment such as rocket propelled vehicles, a rocket scientist has a background in aerodynamics and propulsion. They oversee the manufacturing of aerospace vehicles and test communications and fuel system as well. Usually from an aerospace engineering background, rocket scientists plan and develop the design criteria, modify existing systems, and formulate models for computer analysis to better understand engineering requirements. They also research new materials for aerospace engineering designs.  

Planetary geologists collect samples from celestial bodies for analysis

Planetary Geologists: Geologists come in the forefront in light of natural catastrophe such as earthquakes, mining, and tsunamis but there are planetary and lunar geologists as well. With space agencies across the globe undertaking ambitious manned mission to the moon (China National Space Administration plans a manned moon mission) and SpaceX wants to explore the red planet to examine the surfaces for signs of life, geological studies are a big part of the mission.

However, identifying planetary geological features is an altogether different ballgame.  To address this gap, European Space agency launched a training program called Pangaea last year. Deriving its name from an ancient supercontinent, the training program is aimed for astronauts to identify best areas for exploration and find rocks for sample analysis.

Geology also plays a critical role in identifying landing sites for missions. Some of the core areas where planetary geologist work are:

  • Studying the topography of planets for evidence of life and oversee the movement of robotics missions
  • Lunar Geologists are experts in lunar rocks and soils and oversee the collection of samples from missions
  • Find clues of water, reservoirs and hospitable signs of life

A background in physics, geology and astronomy is highly recommended.  
You can also check out some of the current job openings at ISRO for scientists, engineers and scientific assistants

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Richa Bhatia
Richa Bhatia is a seasoned journalist with six-years experience in reportage and news coverage and has had stints at Times of India and The Indian Express. She is an avid reader, mum to a feisty two-year-old and loves writing about the next-gen technology that is shaping our world.

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