The dream of travelling to space, for most, is lived through our legendary history of sci-fi movies. Whilst you may not find a light saber in your career starter pack, working in an industry beyond our planet could become a tangible reality – the stars might not be so out of reach after all.Space tourism is growing into a major market, with the likes of Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin competing in a very real (and very rapid!) space race. Dr. Crawford, a professor of planetary sciences at Birkbeck College in London, makes a compelling case for human astronomical exploration in a new paper published in the journal Astronomy and Geophysics. If the goal of space is to expand out knowledge of the universe, argues Crawford, then exploration will be most effective when carried out by astronauts rather than robots on a planet. At the core of this argument is that human beings are much better at performing scientifically valuable planetary exploration.
The weirdest job on the list goes to George Alrich, NASA’s “chief sniffer,” who smells materials and equipment components before they are utilised in real-life space missions. Apparently the seriousness of this role lies in the intensifications of smells in the heat and confined space of a capsule. Once a mission has launched, the astronauts have no way of escaping unpleasant odours. Smelling objects can also identify dangerous chemicals that could be harmful to astronaut crew. Aldrich, a chemical specialist, began work at NASA’s White Sands Test Facility in 1974 and has conducted more than 850 smell missions for NASA, including Space Shuttle, Skylab and International Space Station missions.
Whilst specialist space agencies do have onsite doctors assessing the physical health of their astronauts, they also employ a “space psychologist” to monitor mental wellbeing. The isolation, monotony and cramped conditions of a space mission can cause psychology challenges and undue distress to astronauts – who sometimes spend months at a time in capsuled confinement. The job of a space psychologist is to help advise on the most suited astronauts to particular missions and support space crews before, during and after their missions.
Did you know that your forehead and eyes change shape after a year in space? Do you know what days, weeks, months or even years away from Earth do to your body? How long would you actually survive if you were stranded on Mars? A number of universities, including Kings College London, help to answer some of these perplexing questions through training programs for scientists and doctors with an interest in the biomedical issues associated with space exploration. These master’s programs are becoming more applicable by the day.
Cloudy With a Chance of Solar Flares
Space meteorology is already somewhat a career, though not in the way one might expect. According to the American Meteorological Society, space weather occurs because emissions from the sun influence the space environment around Earth, as well as other planets. “Accurate space weather predictions could save society hundred of millions of dollars a year,” says AMS, “the need for accurate forecasting only increases. Forecasters continually monitor the space environment using both space-and-ground-based assets and issue alerts and warnings of a likely impact on Earth.
There are so many entry points into the space industry and plenty more new and exciting opportunities are opening up by the day. Even if your dream career hasn’t been invented yet, NASA aims to establish a permanent lunar base by 2024, and chances are, new positions will open up soon. So keep those galactic eyes peeled.