Astronaut is not only an exciting but also a very challenging profession. As NASA missions evolved, an astronaut became not only the person who belongs to the crew of spacecraft. Since the 1970s, they transformed into scientists who targeted at superior academic achievements. Today, NASA distinguishes two types of astronauts – pilots and mission specialists. Astronauts-scientists transformed into educator astronauts who go through the same training as the others and use their unique experience to inspire students to consider careers in physics, engineering, and technology.
Astronaut training begins with two years of basic preparation. It takes place in the classroom where candidates learn how the vehicle and space station work. Astronauts study earth and space sciences and pass military survival training outside the classroom. After the basic training stage, candidates undergo further selection and become eligible to enter the next part of the training. In the second stage, they work with the experienced astronauts who mentor their junior colleagues. Mentoring is applied to make sure that astronauts can successfully launch, enter the orbit, and land. The final period of training, which takes another 10 months, is dedicated to activities specific to this mission. Astronauts may be required to fix telescopes or other equipment outside the spacecraft.
Astronaut training takes place in various environments. At first, they practice at the Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility. It provided basic understanding of a spacecraft to the future astronauts. After that, they prepare to zero gravity using the conditions of microgravity on the plane called Weightless Wonder. To move large objects in the space, astronauts train at the Precision Air-Bearing Floor. This is a metal floor that allows astronauts to feel how to manipulate with heavy objects in zero gravity.