How Are All Of These Civilians Fit For Space Travel?
Wait, wasn’t it supposed to be tough to be an astronaut?
When NASA first started sending humans into space, the requirements were pretty strict. Neil Armstrong had to train so much that by the end of it he could’ve played Ryan Gosling in a movie (instead of Ryan Gosling playing Neil Armstrong.)
NASA’s requirements have relaxed a little bit since 1969, but you still need to have logged 1,0000 hours of pilot-in-command time. Plus, you need a college degree in STEM. Plus, you need to pass a physical. Plus, you need to meet heigh and weight requirements. PLUS, you need a resting blood pressure of 140/90. PLUSSSS, you need to have 20/20 vision. Oh, and you have to learn Russian.
Does that sound like a lot? You also have to go through training for a minimum of two years for most space missions and that’s on top of the basic training you had to go through when you became an astronaut in the first place.
Now that we’re hurling civilians into space, it begs the question – what gives? 57-year-old Jeff Bezos got to go into space and more likely than not, he’s not as fit as a 38-year-old peak-of-fitness Neil Armstrong. Are we relaxing space standards for billionaires? Does having six-billion dollars negate the need to have a six-pack of abs?
It turns out, the Federation Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements for space civilians is far more relaxed than NASA’s standards. You basically have to train for what to do in an emergency, prove that you can withstand the stress of the flight and you can’t carry firearms or explosives on board. It’s more up to the space tourism companies themselves to decided who’s fit to leave Earth’s gravitational pull.
Jeff Bezos and the other civilian members of the Blue Origin flight only went through 14 hours of training over two days in order to be compliant with FAA regulations. They learned what to do in an emergency, including how to handle a fire and how to leave the spacecraft in a hurry while still on Earth. But then again, they only spent 11 minutes in space and were just along for the ride – not exactly something you need to spend years prepping four.
Inspiration4, the first all-civilian team to enter orbital space, will spend three days in space aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. Their training was a lot longer than Bezos’s, but a lot shorter than the pros’. They spent less than six months going through simulator training, learning how to fly jet aircraft, and chilling in a centrifuge so they could get used to g-forces during the launch. They also climbed Mt. Rainier together, but that was more about team building than getting fit for flight.
That said, you do need to be able to physically handle space. Both NASA and Axiom, the world’s first commercial space station, have a few disqualifying health conditions. For instance, you can’t fly high if you have arrhythmia, because it could lead to heart failure, or high blood pressure, because it could lead to a brain aneurysm. And you can’t treat those in space.
Ultimately, evolving technology is the reason why the requirements for space travel are getting less strict. Traversing the cosmos is getting more efficient, which means that the people inside the space shuttle have less required of them. Maybe one day all we’ll have to do to go into space is watch a short in-space flight video telling us where the emergency exits are and, of course, not carry a firearm.
Related: Introducing The All-Civilian Crew That's Going To Space