The National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced last week that they are looking for the “next group of American space explorers” to put “boot prints on the Red Planet.” NASA will accept applications between December 14, 2015 and mid-February 2016 with final decisions to be published sometime in 2017. So, basically, if you want to be an astronaut, now’s the time to get your résumé in order.
While conventional wisdom suggests that having spent extensive time at Space Camp as a youngster (or adult… no judgment here) or the ability to speak Klingon or even possessing force sensitivity may be helpful, NASA unfortunately has a more down-to-earth set of qualifications. According to NASA, the primary qualification will center on having degrees in engineering, biology, physics or, mathematics. Most of the candidates given consideration tend to be pilots, engineers, scientists, and medical doctors.
Part of the reason for NASA’s more public request for applicants has been a dearth of qualified astronauts in the corps. Currently, there are 47 active astronauts, down from 61 in 2011 and a high of 150 in 2000. Common sense suggests that if a corps of 150 was appropriate during the era of relatively close orbiting of the earth (the Space Shuttle era), the number of astronauts needed to carry out the number of missions required to pull off something as complex as putting people on another planet would be at least that great.
Create the Perfect Resume
So how can you get an edge on other applicants in your résumé? Well, NASA won’t publish anything too specific, but we’re willing to make some educated guesses based on some historical information from NASA. Since we’re talking inter-planetary travel, we’ll use some of the data from the Apollo screening process as a guide, too:
Highlight that High IQ
First, you have to be smart. The average Apollo astronaut had an IQ of 136, with a low of 130 and a high of 145. To reveal this on a résumé, having any of the aforementioned degrees is crucial. It might even be a good idea to have several… and from some pretty prestigious institutions. Advanced degrees, such as Master’s and Doctoral degrees definitely won’t hurt your chances and are probably essential.
Demonstrate Real-World Experience
Second, having real-world experience in relevant fields definitely won’t hurt. Book knowledge from the classroom is great, but it pales in comparison against the value of actual work experience. Knowing how to problem solve in the field and on the spot is important. Remember this? It’s no joke when you are the one floating through space. Your work experience is a good indicator of your value in this area as an applicant.
Talk About Your Exercise Regimen
Third, you need to be in great physical shape. This includes controllable and non-controllable factors, such as height and age. In the Apollo program, 5’11” was the maximum permissible height and 40 was the maximum age. Remember, from a pure physics standpoint, you are cargo, and there are practical limitations that come up as a function of rocket science and engineering. Spacecraft cannot yet accommodate every conceivable body type the way an X-Wing could handle Jek Porkins. As for controllable factors, space travel is taxing on the body in a multitude of ways and both muscular and cardiovascular fortitude must be apparent. In addition, not only should you be in peak physical condition, but you have to have a spotless medical record.
Show You Can Handle the Stress
Finally, you need to be able to demonstrate a propensity for handling hard work and extreme stress. Historically, NASA has pulled most of its astronauts out of the military (the Apollo astronauts were all military test pilots). Why? Because they’re vetted from a security standpoint and because they have demonstrated a work ethic and stress tolerance that is otherwise difficult to glean on a résumé. Having some military background on a résumé is extremely helpful; but if you do not have it, just make sure there’s evidence that suggests you can handle extremes that most people cannot.
The Backup Plan: Find Your Perfect IT Career
Of course, if all else fails and you don’t make the cut, don’t sweat it. Here at Modis, we’re always helping talented IT professionals jump-start their careers and find their perfect fit. Contact one of our 60 offices today to get started!