Astronauts in the United States earn between $82,147 and $126,986, while those in Australia have a mean salary that ranges between AU$66,311($49,659) and AU$113,933($85,322). Astronaut salary in Canada is between C$91,300 ($68,208 USD) and C$178,400 ($133,278 USD). For astronauts from the United Kingdom, the reported pay runs from £40,000 ($49,494 USD) to £80,000 ($98,988 USD).
The salaries for astronauts from Switzerland and Norway range between EUR63,124 ($66,852 USD) and EUR90,509 ($95,894 USD) per year.
Astronaut Salary Influencers
The pay of astronauts depends upon the employing agency and experience. As astronauts work for the government or official agencies, compensation and benefits are set by salary scales based on advancement through training, missions, and performance.
The United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Canadian Space Agency and the European Space Agency (ESA) employ astronauts. The ESA sets salaries and other employment terms for astronauts from member nations.
Certain countries do not have their own space facilities. Aspiring astronauts from these countries can work for NASA but must become United States citizens. Those employed by their country’s space agencies may relocate to the Johnson Space Center in Houston to participate in space flights.
2. Geographical Area
Astronaut Salary in the US
Astronauts employed by NASA start at Grade 12 and can reach Grade 13. Federal employees at the Grade 12 level in Houston, Texas, where astronauts are generally based, start at $82,147 and step to a maximum of $106,794. While at Grade 13, pay for employees in Houston runs from $97,683 to $126,986.
Astronaut Salary in Canada
Astronauts in the Canadian Space Agency earn between C$91,300 and C$178,400 per year.
Astronaut Salary in the UK
According to the National Careers Service, astronauts in the United Kingdom make between £40,000 and £80,000 per year.
Astronaut Salary in Australia
Presently, Australia does not have its own space agency. According to the Weekend Australian Magazine, Australia is the world’s largest economy that lacks its own space agency. Although, aspiring astronauts from Australia can qualify with NASA. Becoming a NASA requires the applicant to first become a United States Citizen.
Astronaut Salary in Switzerland
Switzerland is a member of the European Space Agency. This means that Swiss citizens may apply for positions, including astronaut positions when open. According to Universe Today, the ESA pays astronauts from the A2 to A4 scales, although the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) rather than ESA posts the salaries.
Astronaut Salary in Norway
Norway belongs to the European Space Agency also, therefore its citizens are eligible hires. As with astronauts who come from Switzerland and other ESA member states, Norwegian astronaut salaries fall in the A2 to A4 range.
As of January 2017, ESA employees make 5,260.30 Euros per month at the A2 level, 6,490.50 at the A3 level, and 7,542.40 at the A4 level. This translates to EUR 63,124, EUR77,886 and EUR90,509 per year, respectively.
Astronauts, as with other “General Services” employees in the United States Government, receive increases in “steps” and corresponding pay within their pay grade based on length of service. “Quality step increases” result from job performance.
In the Canadian Space Agency, astronauts are paid on one of three levels. At the entry-level, astronauts undergo training to become operational in space flight. Those in the qualified level have completed the NASA Astronaut Basic Training Program, while senior level astronauts have performed a space mission.
“Starter” astronauts in the United Kingdom are generally paid at £40,000 per year. Those in the “Experienced” level earn £62,000, while salaries for “Highly Experienced” astronauts stand at £80,000 per year.
The European Space Agency pays trainees at the A2 salary grade. Astronauts obtain promotion to the A3 grade upon completion of the basic training and to A4 after their first space mission.
Astronauts train for several weeks and may spend multiple days and weeks on missions in space. Those assigned to the International Space Station typically have six-month missions, or expeditions, but could stay longer. Shifts while on missions are often irregular. When on Earth, astronauts may travel for training or educational and other appearances.
Bonuses & Benefit Packages
NASA awards astronauts and other employees for meritorious job performance or service. These honors include the “Congressional Space Medal of Honor” and “annual performance awards,” which consists of a lump-sum cash bonus.
As U.S. Government employees, NASA astronauts participate in plans for health insurance, long-term care insurance, retirement, dental and vision care.
Those who serve in the European Space Agency obtain benefits such as sickness, maternity, disability and accident compensation. Pension benefits amount to two percent of annual salary, which vests for employees after ten years of service.
The astronaut frontier is difficult to approach. Agencies may go several years without any recruitment or hiring of astronauts. During hiring periods, space agencies may select as few as two candidates.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that NASA employs 45 active astronauts, with another 28 who are not eligible for space flights.
Candidates for astronaut programs must meet various physical and skill requirements. As a prerequisite, NASA space pilots must log a minimum of 1,000 hours of “pilot-in-command time” in jet planes. Pilots must be at least 62 inches and no more than 75 inches tall. For mission specialists, height must fall between 58.5 inches and 76 inches, inclusive. Physical standards also include sufficient vision and maximum blood pressure.
The Canadian Space Agency requires height to fall in the range of 149.5 cm to 190.5 cm. Blood pressure may not exceed 140/90, measured from a seated position.
For the European Space Agency, astronauts should also demonstrate knowledge skills in physics, computer systems and handling of aircraft. If you have such skills and qualifications and you are interested in activating in this field, you can read more about the aerospace engineer salary.
The astronaut field is very difficult to enter. New positions open only every several years. When agencies recruit candidates, a small number, which may be as few as two, are accepted into astronaut programs. Aspiring astronauts must demonstrate skills in piloting jets and knowledge in disciplines such as computers and physics. For those who become astronauts, pay prospects can grow with performance on space missions.