How much do astronauts make per year?

An astronauts lifestyle is often wondered about by your average member of the public – actually, not only is it pondered, but also pretty misunderstood. Along with wondering what astronauts eat, do on a daily basis and sleep on, people often wonder just how much an astronaut will take home at the end of the year.

And although being an astronaut does end up paying fairly well in comparison to other fields, most who become an astronaut do it for a different reason that the money. So, we’ll look at just how much the average astronaut gets paid, plus what else you need to become an astronaut.

How much do astronauts make per year?

An astronaut will make more and more the longer that they stay within the same occupation. A typical starting salary for a new astronaut is likely to be between $60,000 and $70,000 dollars. After 5-10 years, this can increase up to the $100,000 mark. And after a few decades, the salary can easily be in excess of $160,000.

If we compare this to salaries 50 years ago, Buzz Aldrin earned approximately $18,000 per year when he went to the moon with Neil Armstrong. Armstrong, who was more experienced than Buzz, earned approximately $27,000 per year. If we convert that to modern day worth, it would be around $120,000 salary for Aldrin, and an impressive $190,000 salary for Armstrong.

But aside from the salary, there are definitely some other added benefits of being an astronaut. Of course, one of the biggest ones is healthcare, which is essential for an astronaut as they go through a very strict training schedule. It’s a little more dangerous than your average job too, so it’s necessary to have a comprehensive healthcare policy in place.

Military astronauts may also receive a housing allowance if they’re going to be based away from their home residence whilst they’re in training. They’ll also get all of their travel allowance paid if they need to move between different places.

Of course, the salary is great, but most astronauts choose their career because it’s actually something they want to do. I mean, do you think Neil Armstrong was more excited about his salary, or being the first man on the moon?! It’s very challenging and quite demanding, with the ability to solve tasks being one of the main things that an astronaut does.

As well as this, an amazing amount of self discipline and control is required if you want to be an astronaut. The average mission to the International Space Station will take six months, which can really take its toll on an astronaut both physically and mentally. So, it’s definitely important to be physically fit, but an astronaut must also have a good education and mental strength too.

What else do I need to become an astronaut?

So, we know that being an astronaut does pay a good salary, especially after you’ve been doing it for a while. But much like being a doctor or scientist, there are actually quite a lot of different hoops to jump through before you can actually become an astronaut (and get paid a good salary for your trouble!).

  • Bachelors – As you’d expect, an astronaut is expected to have a solid background in some form of science before they can join NASA. This is typically from a science or mathematics field, but it can also be in engineering or other closely related disciplines.
  • 1,000 hours piloting a jet craft – Before becoming an astronaut, you need at least a thousand hours of experience as a pilot of a jet craft. Many astronauts gain this through military training, but private experience is counted too. Most military astronauts have 5 or more years experience in their field.
  • Citizenship – If you want to become a NASA astronaut, then you’ll need to be an American citizen for this. Different space organizations around the globe, like the Russian cosmonauts, and actually they have been known to work together, as men and women from 19 different countries have visited the International Space Station. But to work for NASA, you must be a US citizen.


We’ve cleared up that astronauts earn a fairly good wage when they start their career. By the end of it though, they can end up earning much more, as NASA pays more for astronauts over their years of service, depending on their experience. By the end of their career, they can be earning well into six figure per year, as well as a whole host of benefits to match.

About Alan

I'm Alan, and I'm the owner of Odyssey Magazine. My dad bought me my first telescope as a teenager, and I've been obsessed with the universe ever since. We created this resource to try and help kids and adults learn more about astronomy!

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