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Space traveler offers advice to wannabe astronauts

With more crewed lunar missions just a few years away and the first human voyages to Mars on the horizon, it’s surely one of the most exciting times to become an astronaut.

Traveling to space as a job may seem like a pipe dream for most folks, but NASA’s application process is open to one and all, giving those with the right abilities and attitude the chance to make that dream a reality.

Samantha Cristoforetti, for example, once said, “I want to be an astronaut.” And today she’s living and working on the International Space Station (ISS).

Samantha Cristoforetti aboard the International Space Station.
Samantha Cristoforetti aboard the International Space Station. ESA

Speaking during a press conference with Earth-based reporters on Monday, June 20, Cristoforetti was asked what advice she would give to young people interested in pursuing a career as an astronaut.

The European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut said that to get on the right path toward a space-based job, “it’s important as you grow up to really challenge yourself,” suggesting that it’s always a good idea to “try things that maybe you’re a little bit scared of, or that you think you’re not quite up to yet, because that’s the way that you grow, that’s how you learn your skills, acquire new competence and knowledge.”

Cristoforetti said that taking on new challenges also helps you “build your character, and you understand that you can do hard things,” something that would definitely prepare wannabe astronauts for NASA and ESA’s challenging selection process.

The Italian space traveler added that whenever someone asks her about how to become an astronaut, she always tells them to “try their hand at many different things that can be their main specialty, maybe in a STEM subject, but also in sports, also maybe in volunteering … and expeditions … anything that can develop teamwork skills as that is something that we certainly look for in astronaut candidates.”

Cristoforetti graduated from the Technical University of Munich, Germany, with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, specializing in aerospace propulsion and lightweight structures and writing her thesis in solid rocket propellants.

She joined the Italian Air Force in 2001 and four years later attended the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program at Sheppard Air Force Base in the U.S., where she earned her fighter pilot wings in 2006.

After being selected for astronaut training in 2009, Cristoforetti traveled to space for the first time in 2015, staying aboard the ISS for 200 days. Her second mission, which got under way in April, involved a flight aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule to the ISS for a six-month stay.

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