How to hire astronauts???

The pressure is always on to hire the flight stuff, but it's especially demanding if more than a million-dollars-per-person in training is riding on your decision.

That's the kind of pressure bearing down on Greg Haves, deputy director of human resources, and Duane Ross, manager of the astronaut selection office, at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. It's their job to hire astronauts, that select band of highly visible gravity-defying employees.

Since it costs so much to train each astronaut, NASA wants to make sure exactly the right candidates are chosen. And since Ross became manager of the astronaut selection office in 1978, "we have not asked anybody to leave or had any of them change their minds."

There's no problem soliciting candidates for the space program, Ross says, the recruitment program sells itself. But he and Hayes have been working to find more minority candidates.

Even. two years a rating panel, made tip primarily, of astronauts who have already flown missions, narrows the list of more than 2,000 qualified applicants down to about 3000. The panel uses an adjective rating, not a numerical rating, says Hayes. "They tried that (numerical rating) when Duane first got here in That's how he got gray hair."

The rating panel doesn't try to compare apples and oranges. It looks at pilots and at mission specialists in six fields space science, earth science, life science, material science, flight test engineering and general science and engineering. AN categories require a minimum of three years of experience.

After the astronaut selection board narrows the list further, the 100 top candidates are brought to the Space Center to find out what is really involved in the missions and the intense preparations required.

"They find out what astronauts really do. There's some routine stuff. We want them to have a full understanding Hayes says. "We have had some people who found out they just weren't interested, particularly people who are really dedicated to scientific research and would not have been able to devote time to research. The question is what are their real career goals."

Each candidate has about an hour-long interview with the selection board to assess communication and interpersonal skills and is given an routine tests but a few are more esoteric. For example, candidates spend time in the Personal Rescue Sphere, a small container originally developed as a rescue tool, that gives the experience of being in a confined space. It's a quick way of weeding out a claustrophobic.

Ironically, NASA has not come up with a fool-proof test for motion sickness.
There's no correlation between riding in the (rotating) chair and space sickness. It's one of the great mysteries of space flight...
Haves says.

Hayes and Ross estimate that die process of selecting each new band of astronauts costs nearly a half million dollars. After astronauts are selected, they live and train in groups to develop their team skills. But by then the astronaut selection office is finished with them.


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