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Explore Space as an Astronaut

Astronauts are people who travel into space to look at the planets, stars, and moon and do experiments. Astronauts may also have special training as pilots to fly spaceships. Anyone who likes science and has an interest in space might like to work as an astronaut. Men and women in America who want to become astronauts get training from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, also called NASA. It takes time and a lot of hard work to become an astronaut, but this career would be exciting for anyone who has an interest in space.

Lots of people want to become astronauts, and a large group of people apply to become students in NASA's program. Out of thousands of applications received, NASA only chooses about 100 people to interview and test for admission. These people will spend about one week working with trainers at the Johnson Space Center in Texas. Staff members will watch to find the hardest workers and the ones who work well with others. After the week, about 10 to 15 people will get to enter the program to become astronauts.

The first part of astronaut training takes about one year. During this time, astronaut cadets learn about science, technology, math, and aircraft safety. They also spend a lot of time learning about living without gravity, and they spending time in space suits. Space suits protect astronauts while they are in space and give them the oxygen they need to breathe. Special equipment helps cadets learn what it's like on spaceships so they can practice. Cadets also spend time training underwater because floating in water feels a lot like floating in space. After cadets finish their year of training, they then take special classes to learn how to fly spaceships.

Astronauts each also have special jobs, so they need even more special training. Some astronauts are pilots, so they are in charge of flying spaceships. Other astronauts are in charge of food and water during a trip. Some astronauts also go outside the spaceship on space walks, and they might do experiments. Some astronauts are engineers, and they help make sure that the ship works well.

Astronauts know all about the solar system. The solar system includes planets, moons, stars, asteroids, and comets. The planets in the solar system orbit the sun. The sun is actually a star, and it is 2.7 million miles wide and more than 92 million miles away from Earth. The sun's large size gives it a lot of gravity, so it pulls the planets and moons toward it, keeping them in orbit. All of the planets and moons stay on their course moving around the sun.

A total of eight planets orbit the sun in our solar system. The planets are Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Scientists used to say that Pluto was a planet, but now they have discovered that it's not big enough to be called a planet: Instead, they call it a dwarf planet. The inner planets are the ones closest to the sun, from Mercury through Mars. After Mars lies an asteroid belt, and then come the outer planets.

One of the strangest things to study in space might be black holes. A black hole is a place in space that's all folded in on itself. This collapse creates a strong gravitational pull that keeps the space dark: It sucks everything into it, even light! You would only know a black hole exists by how it affects the surrounding area. Dust might swirl around a black hole like a whirlpool.

If you want to become an astronaut, work hard in school to learn everything you can about science and math. Read books about the solar system, planets, and space. You can also play games, attend space camp, and perform experiments that will help you understand astronomy and space. One day, maybe you'll get to blast off into orbit!

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