Astronauts operate spacecraft, organize operations, conduct equipment repairs and work with scientists on research projects. A NASA spacecraft crew consists of around five astronauts, each with specific duties.
Each spacecraft has a commander and pilot; both are responsible for supervising the flight. The commander has the main authority, and his job involves overseeing the mission and ensuring the safety of the crew members throughout the flight. He maneuvers the spacecraft with the aid of the pilot.
Mission specialists handle various daily tasks to keep the vehicle functional and habitable for the crew, including scheduling the crew’s activities, monitoring equipment and managing the food inventory. They work side by side with payload specialists, who are sometimes included in space missions to carry out unusual tasks. Mission specialists are also trained to fix state-of-the-art equipment while in space. They perform exterior repairs by using a remote manipulator system or by doing space walks, meaning they go outside of the spacecraft. Pilots typically help mission specialists when repairing equipment and retrieving satellites.
While astronauts are not directly in charge of managing research projects, their assistance is essential to the work of scientists. They assist scientists in improving the design of research used in space and give advice on how to deal with challenging situations.Learn More
According to the Science Channel, the technology needed for space exploration ranges from solar sails to power spacecraft to super-precise, atomic-powered instruments for navigation and laser relays for long-distance communication. These technologies are still in early stages of development and may be ready for testing in the next few years, according to NASA.Full Answer >
On Oct. 14, 1947, Chuck Yeager became the first person to break the sound barrier. He flew a Bell X-1 rocket-plane, which was deployed over Rogers Dry Lake in southern California.Full Answer >
A satellite requires a speed of 17,450 miles per hour in order to maintain a low Earth orbit. Satellites in higher orbits travel more slowly; for example, a geostationary satellite only orbits at 6,858 miles per hour.Full Answer >
Lunar rovers are space exploration vehicles that move across the surface of the moon. The lunar rover vehicle used during the Apollo missions provided astronauts with enhanced mobility, while robotic rovers, such as the Chinese Yutu rover, can be operated remotely.Full Answer >