How much does Nasa pay its astronauts?

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Astronauts have to risk their lives for the job, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that they get paid pretty well for the work they do. But how much, exactly? Well, you have to remember that astronaut isn’t usually someone’s first job. Often, they’re test pilots – it’s required that any astronaut has logged three years’ professional experience or 1,000 hours flying a jet before they can qualify. They’re also required to have degrees in science, engineering or maths and have to pass a rigorous selection process that’s much harder than getting into any university you care to name.

Once they make it though, they get paid a lot for their work. Nasa pays employees on a scale called the Federal Government’s General Schedule. Astronauts are on so-called ‘grades’ known as GS-12 and GS-13. Within each grade are several ‘steps’ that go form 1 to 10 and are based on performance and years of service.

If you’re a new astronaut on GS-12 step 1, then you’re looking at $66,167 (£54,110) per year. If you move up to GS-12 step 10, then you’re in line for a $86,021 (£70,326) per year. Now, if you’re an excellent astronaut and have served for many years, you may be a GS-13 step 10 earning $102,288 (£83,625) per year, according to Nasa.

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques in spacewalk training at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston, Texas. (Photo: NASA)

The General Schedule is also just a guide. Astronauts may receive more or less depending on which locations they work in or what missions they’re involved in. Nasa is currently looking at the next generation of astronauts to go back to the moon and eventually to Mars. In a job listing, the space agency listed a salary range of $104,898 to $161,141 per year. Two astronauts, Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken, are set to earn their paychecks later this month when they take off for the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon craft for the first time. The launch is set to take place on May 27 from Cape Canaveral in Florida. It will be the first time Nasa has launched astronauts from American soil since 2011. Since retiring the space shuttle, Nasa has relied on Russian rockets to transport crew to the ISS. Next week’s launch will be a huge moment for both Nasa and SpaceX.

‘The Demo-2 mission will be the final major step before NASA’s Commercial Crew Program certifies Crew Dragon for operational, long-duration missions to the space station,’ the space agency said. ‘This certification and regular operation of Crew Dragon will enable NASA to continue the important research and technology investigations taking place onboard the station, which benefits people on Earth and lays the groundwork for future exploration of the Moon and Mars with the agency’s Artemis program.’

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