Want to be an Astronaut? Learn How to Speak Russian

A fire breaks out on the International Space Station while the orbiting complex is over Russian mission control. How, as an English-speaking astronaut, would you keep up with instructions? The answer is years of Russian training. In between time in simulators, jet airplanes and underwater, neophyte astronauts spend hours learning to read Cyrillic characters and pronounce consonant-heavy words. In fact, one of NASA’s requirements for its astronauts now is to learn the Russian language. The program is taken very seriously because if there was an emergency on board and there was a discussion going on in Russian on the radio, an astronaut would ultimately need to be fluent to be really useful in that situation. A standard test is used by the Foreign Affairs Department where the examiner calls you on the phone and you have a discussion. If you pass the test, you’re good to go. It's not just the United States that's requiring astronauts to know Russian. Virtually every country training astronauts has developed the same system of training.