What Makes You An Astronaut

Just think for a moment about our first ASTRONAUTS. What did it take to make them qualify to be called an astronaut, and how did they differ from those of us in the 705 that have qualified to be known as the Mars One Astronaut applicants.

We all know about the first 7 U.S. astronauts. They were all military trained jet pilots with combat experience. They had faced life and death situations and survived. They had what was called the “RIGHT STUFF”.

When Donald K. Slayton, Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Jr., Walter Schirra, Jr., Alan Shepard, Jr., and Virgil Grissom were selected to become our first astronauts, we (the people) had no idea if we could survive being launched into space, let alone live in a zero-g environment. They were being asked to risk their lives to find a way to do all these things so that America could be the first country to land a man on the Moon and return him safely to the Earth.

Now there are 705 of us that think we have the “RIGHT STUFF”, but I doubt that many of us have jet fighter pilot experience.  But do we really need that to make us qualified to risk our lives to travel to another planet and survive all the elements to make it our new home? I say NO!

Because of all the effort, training, experience, and knowledge gained by those HEROES that have gone before us, we will be able to go to Mars and make it our new home. Let us take a quick look at what they had to do to train for their missions into space and then look at what we can expect to learn before we can go to MARS!

PRE APOLLO ASTRONAUT TRAINING: These guys (there were no women selected into the space program for almost 2 decades later) were all test pilots. Every one of them were Type “A” individuals, competing with each other for every slot to go into space.

Their training was almost all technical about the equipment, the missions, research, etc. When it came to working together on a mission it was understood at the beginning of each flight training period who was going to be the “boss”, the commander of the mission. There was never a question about whether or not they could get along, they were military men and they knew how to take orders as well as give them. They were trained how to fly their spacecrafts and didn’t have to rely on just computers like we will, even for our landing.

When you take into consideration that every flight was actually a very short period of time, the NASA HEADS didn’t think about how they got along. That is not the way it will be for us going to MARS. When I was up for selection as one of NASA’s astronauts, they changed the game. They didn’t want the “Jet Jock” type with the full-steam-ahead-no-matter-what attitude, they wanted a Ph.D. Scientist, and so even though I had trained and could do the job, I wasn’t selected. Then after I got my first Doctorate and reapplied they said that I was too old.

MARS ONE ASTRONAUT TRAINING: Those of us that make it into Round 3 and start training will find it an entirely different experience than the one Apollo astronauts had. We will have times where we are right back in college training in a specialty, like medicine, dental, geology, astronomy, biology, horticulture, and just about any subject you can think of that would help us survive on Mars. We will have to train in how to live together in a very limited space.

Studies have shown that after about 6 weeks of confinement under very stressful situations, all sorts of psychological problems start to come out. When you think about the fact that we will spend seven to seven and a half months stuck in a very small ship, it is going to take a lot of “give and take” to get along over that journey. Then after we land on Mars the work really begins. We will have to rely on each other to stay alive. The work load will be tremendous and we will not be able to go off the deep end. That is why we will spend 3 months out of each year in a simulated habit like we will be living in on Mars.

Let’s face it, life on Mars to start with will be every bit as difficult and challenging as some of our forefathers had to face when they moved WEST and started homesteading a small piece of ground they called home. Mars will be our home or our cemetery! Life will get better each time we have a new team of 4 arrive. The work load may get lighter in some areas and even heavier in others, but ultimately we will have our HOME on MARS!

So, as we approach the training period for us Martians-to-be, we should keep in mind that we are very much in every way REAL ASTRONAUTS with a different kind of mission. What we accomplish will be in books and history for all mankind and will last forever. Let’s face it with enthusiasm, excitement and determination. LET’S GO TO MARS!

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One thought on “What Makes You An Astronaut”

  1. I just finished reading Chris Hadfield’s “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth”. I noticed he made a distinction between “astronauts” and “space travellers” (which sounded nicer than “space tourists”). I suppose I can sort of understand why he would want to make a distinction between those who spend years and years of their lives preparing to travel in space (and often picking up a PhD along the way), versus those who pay lots of money and only spend a few months in training.

    Those selected by Mars One for years of intensive training (with or without advanced degrees) will, in my opinion, certainly qualify for the title of astronaut. But honestly, since we’ll only be “in space” for a few months, I’m far more interested in claiming the label “Martian”. After all, mere astronauts are a dime a dozen. (Hell, there are hundreds of them.) But there will only be a few Martians. At least at first.

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