STEM Career Spotlight

STEM Career Inspiration for Kids: Astronauts

August / 2018

We're highlighting awesome STEM careers that inspire kids! Learn more about what astronauts do, how to become an astronaut, and more!

We’re excited to kick off a new series highlighting awesome STEM careers that inspire kids! For our first career spotlight, we’re choosing a kid-favorite...astronauts!

In this article, we break down what astronauts are and what they do, list the steps to become an astronaut, and share fun astronaut-related activities for kids. Read this article to the children in your life and download a fun printable that’s perfect for a child’s bedroom wall or a classroom!

Understanding Astronauts

Did you know that the term “astronaut” comes from Greek words that mean “space sailor”? How cool is that! The United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration manages and employs the country’s astronauts and uses the term astronaut to define “all who have been launched as crew members aboard NASA spacecraft bound for orbit and beyond.” If you’re in training to become an astronaut and you haven’t been in space, you’re called an astronaut cadet.

Astronaut Job Duties

Astronauts need to be good at and know a lot about a lot of things! There are many important job duties of astronauts.

Usually, astronauts go into space in groups called a crew. As part of the crew, an astronaut will get assigned different responsibilities on the spacecraft. The responsibilities range from being the commander, the one in charge of the crew and the safety of the spacecraft, to being a mission specialist trained in repairing the spacecraft or retrieving satellites.

Right now, astronauts are mainly focused on going to the International Space Station (ISS). The ISS orbits earth and is designed to be “a permanently orbiting research facility.” On the space station, astronauts work on science experiments and also monitor experiments that are being controlled from the Earth! They also take care of the space station by performing maintenance, checking the support systems, updating equipment, and more. Astronauts communicate with the Mission Control Center on Earth to get voice or email with instructions or plans.

NASA is also looking at how to expand human exploration of the solar system, which means that in the future our astronauts could be working on Mars!

How to Become an Astronaut

As NASA’s goals and missions have changed, the requirements for being an astronaut have changed. Right now, to be considered for an astronaut position, U.S. citizens must meet the following qualifications:

  1. A bachelor's degree in engineering, biological science, physical science, computer science or mathematics.

  2. At least three years of related professional experience obtained after degree completion OR at least 1,000 hours pilot-in-command time on jet aircraft.

  3. The ability to pass the NASA long-duration astronaut physical. Distant and near visual acuity must be correctable to 20/20 for each eye. The use of glasses is acceptable.

Astronaut candidates also need to have leadership skills, be able to work as part of a team, and be good at communicating.

Fun Activities for Young Astronaut Candidates

So what can you do to encourage children who can’t wait for their chance to work in the stars or maybe on Mars? We’ve put together a list of fun activities that encourage a love of space exploration and also help build skills that are critical for a future in STEM learning!

Jump for the Moon- Increase bone strength, heart and other muscle endurance just like an astronaut by doing this jump rope exercise from NASA!

Visit an Astronomical Observatory - Observatories house an astronomical telescope or other equipment for studying natural phenomena. Find a list of astronomical observatories here.

Eat like an Astronaut - This fun idea by Gift of Curiosity helps kids understand the difficulties in space by eating foods similar to what astronauts eat and then only being able to place food on fake velcro strips around the kitchen or else their food floats away!

Activate Spatial Reasoning Skills Using Blocks Rock! - Spatial reasoning is the capacity to think about objects in three dimensions and to draw conclusions about those objects from limited information. It’s been proven to be a skill critical for STEM learning. Blocks Rock! has been proven to develop this skill and activate the brain!

Read a Book About Astronomy - There are so many options for great space books that we can’t pick just one! You can check out a list of Amazon best sellers by clicking here.

Attend Space Camp - At Space Camp, kids get to suit up for a mission to the International Space Station or train for a moon landing! It’s self-described as the “ultimate educational experience that illuminates real-world applications of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.” Learn more here. You also might be able to find local “space camps” or discover how to make an at-home version.

Complete The International Space Station Activity Book - This free activity book from NASA is filled with nearly 30 pages of activities and fun facts designed from grades K-5. It was designed by NASA to help encourage kids’ imaginations and their interest in math and science.

Get inspired with our astronaut printable!

This one-page printable is a fun summary of this blog post and lists a checklist of the activities for young astronauts. Download it here.