Astronaut Applicant Rating

During this nail-biting season of waiting among the astronaut hopefuls, I thought it would be informative to explore the process by which NASA rates its astronaut applicants. How does NASA go about ranking the applicants in order to determine the 3.9% who will be interviewed? I don't know the answer, but I did find the 1992 version of of NASA's Astronaut Applicant Rating Sheet on the Astronaut Hopefuls website. Here is Section I of the old rating sheet:

A. ACADEMICS 25 points possible
          Highest degree earned:  
                    BS 5 points
                    MS 10 points
                    PhD, MD, or equivalent 20 points
                    More than one field 5 points additional
  Total x QAD Factor = total score
B. RECENCY OF EDUCATION 5 points possible
          Years since last degree:  
                    3 or less 5 points
                    3-4 4 points
                    4-5 3 points
                    5 or more 0 points
C. EXPERIENCE 30 points possible
          Work Experience 4 points per year (20 points max)
          More than one field up to 10 points additional
  Total x QAD Factor = total score
D. OTHER 15 points possible
          Other unique skills and experience
          (e.g., pilot, scuba, etc.)
up to 15 points
E. REFERENCES 25 points possible
          Quality of references up to 25 points
F. TOTAL SCORE 100 points possible

QAD stands for "Quality, Applicability & Diversity." This subjective weighting factor ranges from 0.0 to 1.0. It provides a means for the review committee to evaluate the quality and applicability of applicants’ education or experience. Educational QAD factors for the 1992 mission specialist selection were as follows: 1.0: 1 person, 0.9: 27 people, 0.8: 30 people, 0.7: 10 people, 0.6: 1 person. Experience QAD factors for the 1992 mission specialist selection were as follows: 1.0: 10 people, 0.9: 26 people, 0.8: 21 people, 0.7: 11 people, 0.6: 1 person.

Section II (not shown here) is a completely subjective rating based on the interview. It awards 20 points possible for each of the following criteria: Experience/potential, Motivation, Teamwork, Communications, and Adaptability.

A lot can change in 16 years, but at least this gives us an idea what NASA thinks is important (recent education in multiple fields, excellent references, work experience in multiple fields).

How do you fare? Would you rate above 75, the generally accepted minimum score to be eligible for an interview?
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Alyssa Voightmann (Rzeszutko) said...

Fantastic information! (this post as well as your others) I am really impressed with your blog. Thank you so much for making all of this information easily accessible and taking the time to compile all of the data for the "hopefuls". I wish you the best in all of your pursuits, especially in your ambitions of becoming an astronaut. Take care.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the great blog. I stumbled upon this rating sheet on the Astronaut Hopefuls site a few weeks back. Wasn't sure how much stock to put in it. If you apply it against some of the recent selections, it doesn't necessarily hold up. For example, look at a bio for Jim Dutton (04 selection):

Education (MS) = 10 points
Yrs since last degree (more than 5) = 0 points
Experience (4+ years as pilot) = 20 points
Other (test pilot) = 15 points?

Total = 45 points. Even if we assume he got 25 for references he wouldn't cross the 75 threshold...

Maybe just me grasping for straws since I don't cross the 75 threshold, either :)

brian said...

That's a very good point. This rating scheme may very well be outdated. At least it gives a snapshot into how NASA has handled it in the past.

As for the 75 magic number, I wouldn't worry too much about it. I don't cross that threshold, but that doesn't mean I'm giving up hope!

Anonymous said...

This is great! According to this I score between ~95-100 (but still haven't heard a thing though).

space-monkey said...

Congrats on making the cut this far :)

KavyaKamal said...

I am an aspiring Astronaut and presently doing my Masters at MIT. I was wondering would doing 2 Masters from two different universities count as 20 points?

brian said...

Your guess is as good as mine. The way I read the rating scheme, you'd earn up to 15 points: 10 for having a masters as the highest degree and up to 5 if the degrees are in different fields. Of course, NASA may no longer use this rating scheme.

K said...

Well I'm borderline, 70 to 80 depending on QAD and refs. I wonder if teaching at three different levels, HS, CC and Univ counts as different fields. At least my time at a startup & DOE lab work to bolster experience.

The wait is agonizing.