If there is a profession that makes the eyes of many people shine, it is that of astronaut. Remember your childhood when you dreamed of becoming one too!
Regarding their remuneration, it is easy to think that it is at very high, even stratospheric levels! But what is it really?
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A ruthless selection to become an astronaut
You would be wrong to believe that becoming an astronaut is something easy and within everyone’s reach. Indeed, you will have to reach a particularly high level in science (well beyond the doctorate). This first criterion severely limits the number of potential candidates.
This need for basic training associated with the taking of risks during the missions must however ensure these men and women a comfortable remuneration commensurate with the responsibilities that are theirs. However, it does not, because above all do not forget that space agencies are most of the time governmental organizations therefore directly dependent on a State. They therefore do not benefit from as many resources as private agencies.
To further illustrate this discrepancy between the remuneration and the weight of this profession, astronauts have a habit of asserting that they exercise this profession much more to serve science rather than to enrich themselves personally.
How are salaries set in Europe?
At the European Space Agency (ESA), the salary scales for astronauts are determined by means of a grading system. There are usually 3 grades namely:
- Grade A2: beginner astronaut level
- Grade A3: astronaut level having undergone special training
- Grade A4: astronaut having made a first flight in space
Remuneration according to rank is equivalent to:
- A2: Gross monthly salary of 5,260 euros
- A3: Gross monthly salary of 6,100 euros
- A4: Gross monthly salary of 7,542 euros
Of course, to this salary can be added bonuses depending on the dangerousness and the duration of the missions carried out by the astronaut. Their amounts are highly confidential and it seems impossible to precisely assess their order of magnitude.
And in other countries around the world?
Across the Atlantic, astronauts are slightly better paid than their European colleagues without the difference being significant either.
NASA thus grants a salary scale ranging from 5,099 euros to 11,160 euros per month, while Canada offers a monthly salary ranging from 5,013 to 9,805 euros.
You should also know that astronauts from the ranks of the army (from which, for example, the famous Buzz Aldrin comes) are paid in relation to their rank and their service record.
How much does a NASA astronaut earn?
In practice, NASA reports that a novice astronaut, who has just been recruited, earns an average of US$66,000 per year, or just over R$320,000 or something around R$26,000. per month. However, professionals with more experience can earn significantly more.
Most NASA astronauts are at the GS-12 and GS-13 levels of society. A first GS-12 receives the $66,000 per year. After a few years, he moves up in rank, still in the same category, and in the final phase of GS-12, he can earn $86,000 a year. This, of course, depends on the length of service and the performance of the professional.
These are not yet the final levels. After a few years, the professional can advance to Step 1 of the GS-13 level and earn $78,000 per year. The GS-13 endgame offers the highest salary an astronaut earns, at a staggering $102,000. A very substantial salary, but very difficult to achieve. These amounts are not exclusive to NASA and are part of the US government’s schedule for paying civil servants.
How to become an astronaut?
In fact, being an astronaut is already very difficult. At NASA, there is a very competitive competition and, although there is no compulsory academic training, professionals generally have a background in the fields of physics, engineering or astronomy. The selection process is considered about 74 times more difficult than that of Harvard University and takes place once every two years. In other words, if you intend to try to be an astronaut, it is good to prepare a lot.
The number of successful candidates is also very low. In 2017, for example, the class of astronauts of the season was formed by only 12 of the 18,300 candidates. Recall that the company’s astronauts not only work on missions led by NASA itself, but also by outsourced companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin.