— Kalpana Chawla
Like many others if reaching out to the stars and the moon is what you dream of, begin now because you are on a journey where the preparation is much much more than the journey. Astronauts spend years training before they can go into space. They learn to operate shuttles, perform experiments in zero gravity and learn survival techniques should a practice flight go out of control.
What do astronauts do?
Astronauts work in space. Some astronauts are mission specialists who fly or navigate the space shuttle. In other words, they are pilots. Other astronauts are payload specialists who work with the equipment that is launched into space, for instance conducting scientific experiments or replacing parts of satellites. In brief, an astronaut’s tasks divide into four areas: supply, repair, assembly and research, not to mention self-care.
A considerable amount of equipment is orbited in space. Unmanned rockets launch most satellites. However, some are carried into orbit in the payload bay of a space shuttle and launched by its crew. Currently, astronauts work mostly with transport of equipment, new modules, supplies and crews for the international space station.
Sometimes astronauts visit orbiting satellites for maintenance and repair. Often they work using the space shuttle’s robotic arms, but sometimes they pull a satellite into the payload bay so they may work more leisurely. Sometimes they put on their space suits and soar to a satellite that is moving at a speed of seven kilometres a second or more.
On the space station, there’s always more than enough to do, and astronauts spend much of their time keeping the station in tip-top condition, both inside and outside. Almost daily, they take spacewalks to tidy up around the station.
First and foremost, the station itself must be assembled. New modules arrive regularly, and the tasks of attaching them to the station are time consuming.
Weightlessness requires astronauts to spend a considerable amount of time on exercise and self care. Exercise in space is so important that it’s part of the job, a duty that cannot be shirked. Astronauts exercise every day. Space shuttle astronauts, who seldom are in space for more than two weeks at a time, exercise half an hour a day. But astronauts on the space station must exercise two hours a day to stay healthy. So astronauts have more than enough to keep themselves busy and seldom have time to be bored on the job. An astronaut with spare time can just gaze out the window.