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Ask anybody what an astronaut does, and they’ll talk about going on space missions. And, to be sure, that is part of being an astronaut. A rather cool part of being an astronaut.
But, strictly on time spent, it’s also the smallest major part of the job. Back in the Space Shuttle Program, astronauts would spend years on the job of which only weeks were spent in space. If that sounds like it would be frustrating, you have to remember two things: 1) The going-into-space part is really amazing. 2) The not-going-into-space part is also really amazing.
While they’re not in space, astronauts spend a substantial amount of time training, which can range from simulating spaceflight on the ground to traveling the world meeting scientists behind cutting-edge research. They also get to work closely with the NASA team on a variety of different projects, including the development of future space vehicles and systems.
When space shuttle commander Hoot Gibson was selected as an astronaut in 1978, NASA was still three years away from the shuttle’s first launch. Years before he first flew the shuttle, he got to be involved in its development and ...