Just like any kid of my generation, one of the answers I gave to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is that I want to become an astronaut.
Back then, I was around 7 or 8 years of age and I had absolutely no idea of exactly how one becomes an astronaut. Later on, I found out that most astronauts came from the US Air Force or the Navy and had degrees in engineering, biological science, physics or mathematics. Basically you need to be certified geek with an excellent vision, military-grade health and thousands of hours of flight experience in jet-powered aircraft.
Seemed doable and attainable given that I took up a course in Human Biology, and that’s just about it. Forget about my vision, my health status and even the number of flight hours I have under my belt. It would take some miracle for me to become an astronaut.
And recently, it has been made even a lot more difficult as NASA has added a new essential requirement for one to become an astronaut: having a high proficiency in speaking and writing Russian. No, this is not a joke. Read below an excerpt from Fox News Online:
The rules are plain and simple: If you flunk the foreign language requirement, you can’t go into space.
A handful of NASA astronauts have taken Russian language training since the U.S. and the Soviet Union began work on the Mir space station in the ’80s, Duane Ross, manager for astronaut candidate training, told FoxNews.com. But in 2009, the space agency revamped its rules — and now all U.S. astronauts will have to learn Russian.
“English is the agreed-to language in space,” Ross explained. But due to the close collaboration with the Russian space agency, it’s now mandatory for America’s astronauts to speak Russian, he said.
NASA retired its fleet of space shuttles in July, leaving Russia’s Soyuz rockets as the sole means of transporting astronauts to and from the International Space Station, a sign to many that the Russians have “won” the space race.
It’s no longer fiction pulled from Transformers 3, continuing the space program has really become a lot more expensive for the United States so they have made dramatic budget cuts which has greatly diminished the capabilities of NASA.
Now, US astronauts hitch-hike to outer space on board Russian rockets and spaceships for a fee. Though on one hand it’s a perfect opportunity to further strengthen the partnership between the two former Cold War rivals and it also opens the opportunity for other countries to band together and conduct their own space programs as well.
But of course it does hurt the ego of America, once the sole leader when it comes to space exploration. With Astronauts required to be proficient in Russian, Hollywood would have to train its stars to speak the language as well if they’re going portray astronauts with an updated sense of realism.