Skip to main content

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.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
Watch SpaceX’s Crew Dragon take one of its shortest journeys on Thursday
A SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft docked at the ISS.

Four International Space Station (ISS) crew members will climb aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on Thursday and take it on a very short journey.

The plan is for NASA astronauts Matt Dominick, Mike Barratt, and Jeanette Epps, along with Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Grebenkin, to relocate the Crew Dragon to a different port to make way for Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft, which is set to fly its first astronauts when it launches from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Monday, May 6, before arriving at the ISS on Wednesday, May 8.

Read more
China’s space station was hit by space junk
China's Tiangong space station shown from above.

China's Tiangong space station shown from above. CMSA

Crew members aboard China’s space station have successfully completed repairs after a debris strike caused a partial power failure at the facility, officials of the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) revealed at a press conference on Wednesday.

Read more
Junk from the ISS fell on a house in the U.S., NASA confirms
The International Space Station.

A regular stanchion (left) and the one recovered from the NASA flight support equipment used to mount International Space Station batteries on a cargo pallet. The recovered stanchion survived reentry through Earth’s atmosphere on March 8, 2024, and impacted a home in Florida. NASA

When Alejandro Otero’s son called him on March 8 to say that something had crashed through the roof of their home, he initially thought it might have been a meteorite.

Read more