Science & Technology

Astronaut Training

Chris Hadfield

Lesson time 19:50 min

To become an astronaut, you have to become an expert on everything. Chris outlines the scope of an astronaut's training from leadership skills to survival skills.

Chris Hadfield
Teaches Space Exploration
In 28+ lessons, the former commander of the International Space Station teaches you the science of space exploration and what the future holds.
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When I was a kid, I watched Star Trek. And I thought all astronauts were the cast of Star Trek. You know, they were Captain Kirk or Spock or Jean-Luc Picard or those sort of Hollywood stereotypes-- the Hollywood personifications of what we all sort of think astronauts are. And gosh, if you watch "Space Cowboys" or "Armageddon" or something, they're arrogant, thrill seeking, damn the torpedoes kind of people. And we're not like that. In fact, astronauts don't like adrenaline in their veins. You don't want to be thrilled by what's happening. You don't want to be overwhelmed by what's happening. You want to be calm and cold and calculating and aware and competent. Like if you get onto an airliner and you're about to take off-- you're in the passenger-- and you lean forward and you see the crew up there, you don't want them to be high-fiving each other and cheering. Or you don't want them to look all terrified sitting up front. What you're looking for is people who have practiced and who understand it. And no matter what happens, they are calm and ready and competent. You don't want someone who is up there supercharged and going, you know, watch this, with the airplane. You want the commander of your airplane to be as ready and capable to fly that ship as possible. And for the astronauts, we have to take it to a whole other level. You show up at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. You drive in. There's the great big NASA sign. And you got a badge that says your name and NASA on it. And you show up, but the office is full of people who have flown in space, who've walked on the moon, who have that experience that you're still just dreaming of. You go again from middle school to high school, even in the astronaut office. And even worse than that, you're not even an astronaut yet. You're an Astronaut Candidate, which the unfortunate abbreviation is an "ASCAN." You go from being whatever you were before-- the top of that-- to now, you're an "ASCAN." And I walked into my office that they'd assigned me. It had my name just in paper on the door because I hadn't been there long enough. And sitting next to me was Norm Thagard, a medical doctor and Vietnam War veteran, who was sitting there studying Russian because he was going to be the first American to fly on the Mir Space Station. So there's Norm in the corner, mumbling away in Russian. And the other disk beside me is John Young. John Young, who flew in space six times. He did the first flight of Gemini. John went to the moon twice. John walked on the moon. And John did the first flight of the space shuttle. He was the commander of the first space shuttle. And he was the chief of the astronaut office for decades. And John is sitting at the desk beside me. And I sit down at my desk and I'm thinking, what on earth am I doing here? You know, I'm an idiot next to these people. I have no idea what my job is. And I really felt like an "ASCAN." When you show up in the astronaut off...

Explore the unknown

Impossible things happen. At age nine, Chris Hadfield knew he wanted to go to space. He eventually went there three times, becoming a commander of the International Space Station. In his MasterClass, Chris teaches you what it takes to explore space and what the future holds for humans in the final frontier. Learn about the science of space travel, life as an astronaut, and how flying in space will forever change the way you think about living on Earth.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

This class is a joy to watch. It drives curiosity and feels quite experiential. One of Hadfield's favorite expressions? "It's complicated."

I have read a lot about "space", starting 14 years earlier than Astronaut Hadfield. Watched a lot of videos of rockets blasting off, walks on the Moon etc., and I thought I knew a thing or two about space since the Sputnik of 1957, yet this Master Class by Ast. Hadfield taught me so much and opened my eyes (and the brain cells) even wider open. He is not my HERO for nothing...

This was the most enjoyable and informative class I have taken. Hadfield is a great lecturer, with great style and I can't believe it's over. I will miss it! Thank you. (I am only interested in space exploration, not a pilot).

Literally out of this world I would’ve please send to Mr. Hadfield for hours & hours Wishing upon a star for a second class


Maria G.

One of the most interesting things (there's so much in becoming an astronaut!) is learning about not needing adrenaline to function in stress but to learn how to be calm, ready and competent. This is an amazing class and Chris a really good and inspiring teacher. I am loving this class!


My Canadian hero... definitely in a special class. Should be available to all kids from 5 years old up. I wonder how his kids will turn out... Bravo!! Jerry Maui, Hawaii

Tom D.

I found it interesting how much there truly is to becoming an astronaut. If you had told me before watching this lesson that Chris spent part of his training in a hospital working along side the burn unit I wouldn't have believed you. I also found it interesting how the Russian's decided to put all of their survival equipment in the actual parachute itself. In my opinion, I think that would be more difficult to collect if you were to descend into the water opposed to landing on solid ground. Very interesting Chris looking forward to the following lessons.

Ronald A.

Question about survival emergency landing. You have been more then a 100 days in space, you need to make and emergency landing in the jungle. Gravity is kicking back, you and the team can’t move adequately. How do you survive a few days if you can’t barely move because of the gravity. When in training simulations, how do you simulate the gravity kicking in?

David J.

I never knew how broad the required knowledge base of an astronaut had to be. Wow.


Very eye opening and invigorating...Chris does a great job of explaining just what goes into becoming an explorer - be it space, oceans or land...

A fellow student

I thought it was interesting. I am looking forward to seeing how math is used in space exploration. What are the many applications of math in rocketry?

Morgan H.

Chris, These qualities or expectations seem daunting for an aspiring astronaut. I am teaching an astronomy unit in Science 10 and have many interested students. What things could an aspiring astronaut do in the short term to help them achieve reach their dream?

Bernard D.

I hadn't considered survival training to be a necessary part of astronaut training. They do have to be prepared to survive wherever they end up. However, I question the 2-3 days' duration mentioned in the lesson. It might be longer than that, especially if they can't radio or send a location beacon.

Suhaib T.

Right away he distills the common conception of the “Hollywood astronaut”. The same people that get overly excited, get overly worried. You wouldn’t even want that trait in a commercial pilot. His recollection of the training he had to do while he was still a cadet, ASCAN, were a bit illuminating. You’re automatically placed with high caliber people, each with their own deep skill set. The bar is already high when you begin. For example he sat across from John Young who walked twice on the moon. The amount of information you have to soak in is daunting. You have to grasp a general idea of everything, learning all the experiments on board the ISS, over 200, learn a bit of orbital mechanics, rocket science, different emergency procedures, survival techniques in different environments like the desert or the arctic, different leadership techniques, and of course first aid. Interesting to know that they actually have to go to the hospital and learn how to diagnose and treat various injuries. He ended with how astronaut training differs for each generation and as we push forward into the future skill sets evolve. The astronauts of the Gemini program are a different breed than the astronauts of the ISS. Never really thought of it that way. Mars will require a whole new set of skills that the next class of astronauts will have to master.