How to become a spaceship pilot

Originally published at:


Some sort of link would be nice.

@xeni may have intended the “inspire” quote to be the link, but it didn’t take. Here goes:

PS: The video is INCREDIBLE!!!


There is another way…


BOY, are my arms tired.


One of NASA’s criteria is a long successful career in the military. At least, that’s how it worked back in Saturn V days.

What? Yes I can actually remember the Saturn V. So?


At least with some programs, there’s been opportunity for civilians, like guests (teachers) on the space shuttle, right?


I don’t think they get to put their hands on the joystick, though.


This mission of democratizing space, it is going to be something that will bring us together. We’re not nearly the separate people that we like to think we are.

I call bullshit. It’ll be more of the same: haves and have-nots. Only the extremely wealthy will go to space, these highly trained, skilled, and lucky pilots notwithstanding.

Up until that point, however, I was just as awestruck as everybody else, Tremendously cool.

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If I were lucky enough to be up there, I’d be over the moon :first_quarter_moon_with_face:, joystick or not.


I’m honestly a trifle surprised that Virgin Galactic would have spaceship pilots.

Last year we had 114 launches. 4 of them were crewed, with one of them being one of the year’s 3 failures; and another being one of the Virgin Galactic flights just squeaking past the 50 mile mark.

And that was a fairly good year for manned space flight; ever since showing the commies what for receded as an objective it’s been a thin trickle of humans bound for the ISS to keep things running so that there’s an ISS to deliver humans to so that they can keep things running vs. all the satellite payloads and the occasional probe or other neat object.

Even if the objective is to transport humans, so you have some on board regardless; is there going to be any case for letting them drive given the likely maturity of automated launch systems by the time human transport capable of going anywhere is ready?

There have been lots of civilian astronauts.

Peggy Whitson, twice ISS commander and current holder of the American record for total days in space (665 days on three ISS missions) with over 60 hrs EVA time on 10 spacewalks, is a PhD research biochemist, but was never in the military.

I don’t have current precise numbers to hand, but NASA’s astronaut corps is generally more than a third but a bit less than half civilian.

I remember the Saturn V, too. (heck, I even remember Al and Gus and the Redstone!), but today’s astronauts are a long way from those days.


The reason is Burt Rutan. Burt is old-school stick-and-rudder guy who didn’t much care for automated systems. He believed having a human pilot “in the loop” made the enterprise much safer.

Of course, the first Spaceship Two was catastrophically destroyed by the human co-pilot unlocking the flutter hinge at the wrong point in flight.

And the flutter-hinge system is used in the first place because human pilots can’t fly a winged vehicle through the hypersonic interface - human reaction times are simply too slow. So the craft is designed to fold up into a “shuttlecock” configuration that will be passively stable through the re-entry interface, and then unfold into a human-flyable glider once it slows down enough.

SS2 requires a crew. It doesn’t have the automated systems it would need to fly itself.

(Personally, you couldn’t pay me enough to fly on SS2, and that’s only the first in a loooong list of reasons why not.)

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Step one: be a citizen of (or gain asylum in) a country with a SPACE FORCE!



Where any of NASA’s pilots, specifically, rather than astronauts generally, non-military?

I only checked a sample of them, way too late for all 135 shuttle flights flights; but the ‘commander’ and ‘pilot’ seats were uniformly filled by someone from one branch or another, frequently also with a test piloting stint, on the ~20 I checked; with the ‘mission specialist’ slots being where the variety was.

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You can choose any one of the people going happy.

Well, now that they have windows on their craft, maybe someone can talk them into automated control systems…

Jokes aside; Virgin Galactic both impresses and underwhelms me at the same time.
On the one hand it is impressive what they have achieved so far. Designing a new type of craft from scratch as a private operation.
On the other hand - here we are, half a century after the first Moon landing. That’s almost exactly the time span it took to progress from motorized flight to manned space flight. And Virgin’s “Spaceship” is basically a luxurious version of what the X-15 did 60 years ago.
I can’t help but feel that we should be much, much further along on the road to space by now.

NASA’s first two groups of astronauts (Mercury Seven and New Nine) were all military test pilots. Group 3 weren’t, but all had to have flown jet fighters.

Harrison Schmitt of Astronaut Group 4 was the first NASA astronaut never to have been in the military- he was Lunar Module Pilot of Apollo 17.

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Ugh. I was websurfing about SpaceShipOne and Burt Rutan, and-- well, never look too closely at anyone you consider a hero.

I put myself in the (Those who fear expansion of Government control) group, and do not hide the fact that I have a clear bias on Anthropogenic global warming (AGW). My bias is based on fear of Government expansion and the observation of AGW data presentation fraud – not based on financial or any other personal benefit. I merely have found that the closer you look at the data and alarmists’ presentations, the more fraud you find and the less you think there is an AGW problem… For decades, as a professional experimental test engineer, I have analyzed experimental data and watched others massage and present data. I became a cynic; My conclusion – “if someone is aggressively selling a technical product whose merits are dependent on complex experimental data, he is likely lying”. That is true whether the product is an airplane or a Carbon Credit. –

So, using his terms, the more government gets “aggressive” selling their “technical product”, the less credence he gives it. Gee, I guess government should be totally chill and stop being so pushy. Because only then will Rutan would get with the program and look into solving Earth’s CO2 problem…

(In retrospect, those sideburns were a dead giveaway.)