Star Sailors in the Making

Anglorama nr 3/2005 (35)

Star Sailors in the Making

Być może jako dziecko marzyłeś o zostaniu astronautą i podróżach w przestrzeń kosmiczną. Zanim jednak ktokolwiek zasiądzie za sterami wahadłowca, czy odbędzie spacer po ksieżycu, czeka go ostra selekcja i mnóstwo testów.

Every two years the Johnson Space Center in Houston chooses about 100 men and women from all over the world for an intensive astronaut candidate training program. It's very hard to meet NASA's requirements but the prospect of a career that involves being a scientist and an adventurer at the same time attracts about 4,000 applicants every two years. Only twenty of them will be chosen and they will undergo further training and lots of tests.

There is number of qualities that a future astronaut should have. Passion for astronomy is essential, as well as being very competent in math and other sciences. Doing research on previous NASA's programs will not be a waste of time. Furthermore, as astronauts work in a team all the time, they should be very communicative and possibly bilingual.

Other necessary requirements are:
✔ U.S. citizenship
Bachelor's degree (preferably in engineering, biology, physics, or math)
✔ Three years of related experience after obtaining the bachelor's degree
✔ Passing a NASA space physical examination which is similar to a civilian flight examination
✔ More than 1,000 hours of experience as a pilot of a jet aircraft
✔ Height from 64 to 76 inches (162.5 cm to 193 cm)

During a two-year-period the lucky twenty attend classes in science (e.g. maths, astronomy, physics, geology, meteorology, oceanography), technology (e.g. navigation, orbital mechanics), and space shuttle systems. Moreover, they are trained in land and sea survival techniques, scuba diving, working in a no-gravity environment, and using spacesuits. At the end of the first year, the trainees take a swimming test which involves swimming 3 lengths of 25 - meter pool in full flight suit and sneakers.

After two years, the group of twenty will be reduced to a few people. It takes another five years of intensive classroom study on various aspects of space shuttle operations and intensive training. In simulators, future astronauts are taught how to operate the shuttle during the pre-launch, launch, orbit, entry and landing phases.

Preparations for a flight take at least 10 months and they include further training in simulators, living in a mock-up shuttle and space station and underwater training for spacewalks. In the fake space vehicles the astronauts practice, among other things, meal preparation, trash management, and the use of cameras. All the time a digital image generation system provides  very realistic images of the Earth, stars, and the landing runway.

The last 11 weeks preceding the flight are devoted to training with the flight controllers in the Mission Control Center in Houston. The astronauts and flight controllers work as a team, solving problems and working on contingency plans for bad and good scenarios.

Even then, however, fulfilling your childhood dream about piloting a spaceship may be extremely dangerous. Apart from years of training, the astronauts need much courage and lots of good luck.

Space jokes
?    What does NASA stand for?
:)    Need Another Seven Astronauts.
?    Did you hear about the new restaurant on the moon?
:)    Great food but no atmosphere.
?    What are last words of an astronaut?
:)    „What does this red button do?"
?    What did the astronaut cook for lunch?
:)    An unidentified frying object!
?    How many astronauts does it take to screw in a light bulb?
:)    One, but the whole collective enjoys the experience!

Did you know?
    Astronauts do not sprinkle their food with salt and pepper as in space these are only available in a liquid form. They would simply fly away and block air vents, or get stuck in astronaut's eyes, mouth or nose.
    Sleeping in the shuttle's cockpit is very difficult for astronauts unless they have a special sleeping mask. This is because from their perspective the sun rises every 90 minutes. The light and warmth it produces is very disturbing.
    The Mission Control Center in Houston transmits wake up music to the crew when it is time to get up. The MCC chooses special music for a different astronaut each day. Sometimes astronauts families ask for a particular song to be sent to their beloved ones.

Justyna Gaertig

to meet requirements - spełniać wymagania
adventurer - poszukiwacz przygód
to undergo - przechodzić (np. szkolenie)
previous - poprzedni
bilingual - dwujęzyczny
citizenship - obywatelstwo
bachelor - tytuł naukowy odpowiadający licencjatowi
physical examination - badania lekarskie
civilian - cywilny
jet aircraft - samolot odrzutowy
orbital mechanics - mechanika orbitalna
space shuttle - prom kosmiczny
survival techniques - techniki przetrwania
no-gravity environment - środowisko pozbawione grawitacji
spacesuit - skafander kosmiczny
trainee - stażysta
sneakers - trampki, buty sportowe
launch - start
mock-up - atrapa
trash management - usuwanie śmieci
digital image generation system - system, który na bieżąco tworzy realistyczne obrazy kosmosu w symulatorze
runaway - pas startowy
contingency plans - plan awaryjny
to fulfill a dream - spełnia marzenie
collective - zespół
sprinkle - posypywać
air vent - kanał wentylacyjny
crew - załoga
beloved - ukochany

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