On July 20, 1969, two astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin left their Apollo lander module and took the first steps on the Moon. But what it took them to get there is their training as astronauts. No wonder, this job is a universe apart from the rest.
They travel in space, calculate all that’s got to do with the stars and galaxies, and arguably, do one of the most interesting jobs of the world. Obviously then, the skill sets required are different. What is it then that makes an Astronaut?
The Nasa recruits both civilians and military personnel for their program. Earlier, though it was a mandate to have jet aircraft flying experience but over the years, the focus was also put on those with excellent academic experience in biological sciences, mathematics or engineering. And of course, if selected, the candidate goes through a rigorous test designed by Nasa which is a make-or-break factor.
Once selected, the candidate undergoes rigourous training that last for two years. During this period, one of the important training regimens the candidates participate in, include a water survival regime to become scuba qualified. The ability to swim great lengths and tread water in a space suit is no ordinary feat considering the time limit. Also important to fulfill are the ability to withstand high and low atmospheric pressures, and not to forget, the experience of weightlessness for about 20 seconds which is repeated for around 40 times in a single day.
What do astronauts eat, and how do they entertain themselves
Space food today is not much different from what they eat on earth. What in the early days of space food was in the form of toothpaste tubes has now graduated to delectable cuisines made by none less than celebrity chefs — with a difference. While solid foods can float away and reside in the shuttle vents, or get stuck in the nose or mouth of the astronaut posing as a hazard, liquids can freely float away even before they are had! Drinks are packaged as powders, to which the astronauts just add water. Today, the astronauts are made to sample around 20-30 foods and are made to rate them on a scale of 10. Any food that ranks six and more, is given the opportunity of travelling all the way to space – only to be eaten of course.
If you thought the astronauts are busy finding ‘space’ for entertainment, you got to think again. From reading books, listening to music, playing card games, and watching the beautiful view of the stars, and the earth spinning, there is plenty of choice for the space walkers. The sunrises and sunsets from space are seen every 45 minutes, which is so spectacular that it can keep any nature lover busy for hours together. Watching movies and even making phone calls home (yes, it is possible) make for just another entertaining day in the space.
Interesting things about space
1. If you shouted in space even if someone was right next to you they wouldn’t be able to hear you.
2. Any liquid in space will form the shape of a circle because of surface tension
3. If you ever attempt to count all the stars in the galaxy, it would probably take you more than 3,000 years to count them all
4. The possibility of one getting killed by space debris is one in five billion
5. A second of energy released by the sun is equivalent to a 100 billion nuclear bombs
6. If you ever get lucky to set foot on the moon, you can be rest assured that your footprint is imprinted there forever
Ellen was selected by Nasa in 1990 and in 1991 became the world’s first Hispanic female astronaut. A mission specialist and flight engineer, Ochoa is a veteran of four space flights, logging more than 950 hours in space.
A military pilot he was selected in 1959 for Project Mercury astronaut training. Glenn was selected for the first orbital flight, and in 1962 aboard Friendship 7, he made three orbits around Earth.
Bluford became the first African-American to travel in space in 1983, on board the space shuttle Challenger, and three later missions. His career began as a pilot in the US Air Force, before becoming a Nasa astronaut in 1979.
Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova was launched aboard Vostok 6 on June 16, 1963 and became the first woman to fly in space. During the 70.8 hour flight, Vostok 6 made 48 orbits of Earth.
Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma (retd),was the first Indian to visit space. He embarked on the historic mission in 1984 as part of a joint space program between the Isro and the Soviet Intercosmos space program and spent eight days in space aboard the Salyut 7 space station.