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How to Become an Astronaut - Part 2

Posted August 14, 2007 12:00 AM by Steve Melito
Pathfinder Tags: CAIT JSC SMS

After the classroom component of NASA training is complete, astronaut candidates perform hands-on exercises in flight simulators and modules. This training continues until the day they leave on a mission. After all, it's a matter of life and death.

The Johnson Space Center (JSC) has many simulators, each of which targets a different skill and task. The computer-aided instructional trainer (CAIT) is the first of these simulators because it serves as a stepping-stone to larger, more complex ones. The shuttle mission simulator (SMS) is the main training-mission simulator because it provides the greatest amount of instruction. Crew members learn the most about their in-orbit duties while in the orbit crew compartment trainer.

Astronaut candidates experience weightlessness in a modified KC-135 four-engine jet transport, and in the weightless environment training facility (WETF), which is also known as the neutral buoyancy tank. The crew software trainer (CST) is where candidates learn about the power and capabilities of the orbiter software. They are then allowed on the single-system trainers (SSTs).

During advanced training, astronaut candidates return to the SMS, which serves as the primary training facility. The motion base crew station (MBCS) and the fixed base crew station (FBCS) are both equipped with controls, displays and consoles identical to those of an orbiter. All of the JSC simulators have built-in visual, sound, and computer components to make them as accurate and realistic as possible.

Training doesn't stop after astronaut candidates complete their one-year program and become full members of the astronaut core. In fact, training intensifies as astronauts participate in more simulations and testing. They also perform continuing research and scientific projects around NASA.

Astronautics is a profession of constant, continuing education and training. It also requires waiting to be chosen as a crew member for a mission. Do you have "the right stuff" to be an astronaut?

Editor's Note: Part 1 of this series ran yesterday.

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