Let's say that suddenly NASA needs my characters, a party of scientists without prior experience, to go to space with a Space Shuttle-like spacecraft for a seven days mission.

They only need to do very simple science stuff in orbit. No EVA, no piloting, no space cowboys actions. They have no particular medical conditions (heart problems, mobility impairment, obesity...). They only need to be remain seated with seatbelt fastened during the trip, pressing some buttons and get back.

Could they be ready in a matter of days?

  • 38
    $\begingroup$ Someone familiar with space exploration would be more likely to wonder about the requirement for these particular scientists to do some "very simple science stuff" in space. Could already-trained astronauts (who all have STEM degrees, remember) be instructed on how to push the buttons? Alternately, could the scientists press the buttons remotely, from ground control? $\endgroup$
    – Maxander
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 19:08
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ "Common people" in the first world tend to be perhaps older and fatter than you might expect...and might be upset with the space toilet. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 19:33
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ You'll also need to provide a good reason for them being there in person, instead of using some sort of remote support. $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 19:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Millions of people wants to become an astronaut, thousands are qualified, but 3 are only selected because they pass all the requirements both mentally and physically, went to rigorous and hard training for months and passed them too, passed also the critical eyes of their instructors and you want some nobody to go to space? $\endgroup$
    – Mr.J
    Commented Jan 8, 2019 at 5:37
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Maxander and zovits: in the Armageddon commentary, Ben Affleck recounts a story where he asks Michael Bay why it's easier to train drillers to be astronauts than it is to train astronauts to drill. Michael Bay was not pleased with this question. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 0:58

9 Answers 9


It would be a question of acceptable risk to them and to their mission.

  • What is the ratio of scientists to babysitters?
  • Is it acceptable that they would die in emergencies which trained astronauts could survive? And possibly take their babysitters with them?

If the answers are enough and acceptable, then seven days sounds possible. Call it 20 hours of do not push this button, do not push that button, in fact push no buttons at all, 20 hours of simulation so they know what to expect, and you would still have a few hours for medical checks (do all of them go or just the fittest?) and mission planning.

The suspension of disbelief breaks not with the training but with the the decision making process to take the risks. NASA wouldn't do that. A military-sponsored mission?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Re: "NASA wouldn't do that" - It's a fictional situation with a sudden unforeseen need. I doubt it would be unimportant enough that NASA's decision to take risks would seem odd to the readers. $\endgroup$
    – JollyJoker
    Commented Jan 8, 2019 at 9:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ NASA does not 'have' funds, they receive 'funding' so do not really make any decisions. They would have to justify everything to some other body and the chances of anyone getting authorisation or anyone taking personal responsibility is slight even in desperate times. $\endgroup$
    – KalleMP
    Commented Jan 8, 2019 at 9:03
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ So the question isn't how long it takes to train the civilians, it's how long it takes to train a dog to bite them if they try to push a button... $\endgroup$
    – Graham
    Commented Jan 8, 2019 at 17:48
  • $\begingroup$ Most likely they'd just design a capsule with no buttons at all. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 5:57
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It's very hard to train scientists not to push buttons. Scientists like pushing buttons! $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 7:41

Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, Blue Origin are some companies that plan on sending tourist to space, probably flying people to high altitudes on a rocket attached to a plane and once they are as high as a plane can go, you could start the rocket engines. The hardest part of being an astronaut, besides all the medical training and getting used to the acceleration of the take-off is the cost, so NASA and other non profit organizations send the best of the best so they can be very efficient with the time spent in space.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'd agree -- probably the only genuinely debilitating aspect of orbit is vestibular upset (aka motion sickness), and that's easily handled for most with a pill (NASA-spec version of Dramamine equivalent). $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 17:43
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding, GaboSampaio! If you have a moment, please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. You may also find Worldbuilding Meta and The Sandbox useful. Here is a meta post on the culture and style of Worldbuilding.SE, just to help you understand our scope and methods, and how we do things here. Have fun! $\endgroup$
    – Gryphon
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 17:56
  • $\begingroup$ this doesn't really answer the question, because we don't know how much training these tourists would have to go through. also, this "sending to space" consists mostly of a high altitude flight above the Kármán line. $\endgroup$
    – ths
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 13:11

Yes. For "space tourists" it depends more on their health than training.

For a regular space mission, human body does not need any acclimatization. However, unless we don't care about people dying while on a mission, there are certain health requirements that an astronaut (even a casual one) has to meet. Most importantly, it's high-g (6g for civilians, as far as I know) testing. Less important (but still important) is a simulated 0g training. Then there is a general training on how to use your spacesuit, how to eat, how to go to toilet etc. All of that can be compressed into a couple of days, and if civilians would have a professional "guides" while in space, it would be not much different from today's missions.

So, while we can watch flight training in movies like "Armageddon" with amusement, there is certainly more than just a grain of truth in it.

  • 7
    $\begingroup$ +1 just for mentioning Armageddon, which had way too much fun addressing the idea of sending overweight, underqualified people into space. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 19:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Mind, I will grant that professional oil rig workers, cavalier attitudes or no, are extremely familiar with the concept of safety drills and the importance of same. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 13:53

As most people are mentioning the launch stress of the G-forces, I'd like to bring up the numbers. On average, a human can survive 5Gs (Vertical) before passing out (this doesn't mean we should just let anyone pull 5Gs) and with training and g-suits, can survive about 9Gs. In the negative, human survival is less tolerant with limits at -2Gs to -3Gs.

Horizontal Gs are way more survivable, with humans being able to survive at 46Gs on test and some race car drivers experiencing survivable crashes in excess of 100Gs (with the record held by Kenny Bräck, who survived a horizontal 214Gs in a 2003 crash).

A typical Space Shuttle Launch will experience a peak of 3Gs vertical, which is well within the tolerable range, though still would require medical screening. Nearby Cape Canaveral, Disney World's Mission: Space Attraction subjects the rider to 2.5Gs horizontally, though it does have a famous history of having two fatalities to its name (both brought on by pre-existing conditions, not the ride's operation) and numerous symptoms associated with motion sickness that resulted in one of the centrifuges being operated in a limited state (green) and the more intense ride (orange) having motion sickness bags added for riders. That said, on opening several astronauts from all NASA programs were invited to ride and most reported it to being as close to the real deal as most civvies are ever going to get.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Vertical and horizontal depends on the orientation of the person--this is why you see astronauts laying on their backs in preparation for liftoff. So the 3g shuttle launch is probably horizontal acceleration for astronauts, even though the actual rocket is going vertically. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 23:10
  • $\begingroup$ @user3067860 Possibly, though having ridden the ride quite a few times, I can confirm that the realistic nature is in part do to the motion of the film componant of the ride. While you are on your back experiencing vertical Gs, the film moves is that of a lift off, so you feel like you are moving forward. I would imagine the motion is likely because your body knows your moving, but your eyes are saying forward and your inner ear are saying sideways... which results in a disorienting feeling of forward motion. $\endgroup$
    – hszmv
    Commented Jan 8, 2019 at 14:54
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Actually I think it's mixed up in other places--basically the forces that actual astronauts experience is the kind you can handle most of, but in your answer you give the tolerance ranges the other way around. (Personally I find "eyes in" or "eyes down" easier to deal with in terms of describing the direction...astronauts experience eyes in, people on the ride experience eyes...??) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 8, 2019 at 15:02
  • $\begingroup$ You seem to know a lot about survivability of accelerations, so I am curious: are the vertical (eyes up/down) limits of 5(9) and -2(-3) Gs and the horizontal (eyes in/out) limits of 46-214 Gs taken over the same amount of time? It occurs to me that a car crash (horizontal) is a very short period over which to experience that acceleration and I wasn't sure if the same short span was true of the vertical tolerances. I guess the vertical tolerances might be lower because they act to move blood into/out of the brain? $\endgroup$
    – ben
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 22:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ben: That is exactly why the vertical tolerances are lower... it's the lack of oxygen to the brain that causes it to be fatal, well before the body is fatally damaged, which is a higher tolerance. Obviously, 46-214 is a do not try this at home condition sticker as there are fatalities at these forces if exposed to long. The -G low vertical tolerances are another matter, as the death occurs because the vessels in ones head aren't built for that much blood entering all at once and will burst. There's another fun roller coaster ride experience I can tell you about negative G fun. $\endgroup$
    – hszmv
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 14:43

For a short flight, yes. For a long flight, no.

The longer you are in space, the more training is needed to be there. For a very short trip, it'd be little more than riding as a passenger in a fast plane (and G forces are in tolerable ranges. A bit intense, but nothing the typical healthy human can't handle.)

The first hard part is fears. Unless you're an adrenaline junkie (as pretty much every astronaut is; every astronaut is an experienced diver, fighter jet pilot, and more), the entire process can be immensely fear-inducing. Anyone with a fear of heights is obviously going to have an issue. And once you're in a constant state of free-fall... well... expect at least one untrained person to be screaming. This can be annoying at least for the other passengers and the astronauts.

The second hard part comes with farting (seriously). In a car, boat, or plane, it has a tendency to linger more than in a house or outside, but it still dissipates. That's because none of those things are sealed air-tight; fumes still escape. In a spacecraft, you're stuck with every fart, so proper knowledge of how to handle that is necessary, suits and filters.

The third hard part comes the moment someone needs to go to the restroom. Going to the bathroom in space requires training, because one of the most dangerous things in space is floating liquids (and if you try to use the restroom without proper training, you could actually be at risk of bringing down the entire shuttle due to your fluids getting literally everywhere.)

Then comes eating and drinking. Also challenges in zero G, and again, there's a huge risk if fluids or dust start floating about. Fluids can corrode and/or destroy important electronics, and any kind of dust can wreck havoc with ventilation systems.

The list gets more complicated as things go on, including higher than normal exposure to radiation, how to handle moving about the cabin, and more. Humans are not good at staying stationary for long periods, and will soon need how to interact with a lot of their environment.


No, not in a matter of days.

Even Space tourists have to go through some training and have to be physically in good shape to be able to go through space.

First they would have to undergo some medical tests on them to determine if they are physically fit. That already takes a few days.

They also have to learn and understand some procedures on what to do in case of emergency, that also takes a week at least.

This is mostly for their own safety and the safety of the crew.

So I d say you would need at 2 weeks for the basic minimum.

Realistically there is no reason to send untrained scientist into space as there is a large shortlist of elite trained scientists/astronauts waiting to go to space.


You can, it doesn't take that long to get basic competence.


Despite the physical and mental demands, Virgin does not require the majority of its space passengers to undergo training. Julia Tizard, its vice president of operations, explains that Virgin requires this of only a select few -- mostly those with previous heart or lung problems. "Our mantra is that everybody who wants to go to space can get to space," Tizard says at Virgin Galactic's hanger and fabrication facility in Mojave, where it is building its space planes and conducting final tests on SpaceShipTwo. "My personal goal," adds the British astrophysicist, "is to take civilisation to space."

They let anyone into space, even untrained people. There are two complications. G force, and zero g training.

Beyond that, training is up to the ticket holder. You don't want to lay out a life's savings only to black out, throw up, "or take an elbow to the ribs", says Binnie, because the other guy floating around next to you didn't receive instruction. For all these reasons, Virgin -- whose ship will carry six passengers -- recommends two types of preparation: zero-gravity training and experiencing g-forces. The first is to help you manoeuvre in weightlessness. The second is to keep you conscious.

But how long do these take?


Fortunately, pilots typically only go through centrifugal training a single time before moving on to the real thing. Once they make it through, it's usually clear that the student has what it takes to fly some of the highest-performance aircraft on the planet.

A single session of centrifuge training may be enough to stop you panicking and learn basic breathing exercises.


A person feels weightless when he is undergoing free-fall; for example a person who is diving from a high platform will feel weightlessness till he/she hits the water. NASA uses a modified KC135 four engine jet to fly on a parabolic orbit so that for a certain period of time, it is falling freely towards Earth. In this period, astronauts practice eating, drinking and using various kinds of onboard shuttle equipment. Training on these (called vomit comet) normally lasts from 1 to 2 hours.

That would be trickier, and would require a lot of flights, but would be just about feasible.


During the STS programme there was a range of scientists sent to the orbit. Their role was to perform science on board and to some degree to promote the programme itself. One of the astronaut casualties in the Challenger disaster, Christa McAuliffe was a teacher and I don't think anyone expected her to do any ship control. She was chosen to the mission in June 85 and the mission took place in Jan 86 so the training probably wasn't "few days" but with more modern technology and a sudden need it should be quite feasible. The training will mostly tell the scientists how does start and landing procedures look like, what they can't do as well as how to react in case of danger (with extensive training in simulators).

Note though - very simple scientific tasks can be performed by regular astronauts. It should be very difficult tasks that require scientists to actually be on board.


really yes you could send someone of with only 24 hours prep, so long as someone told you exactly how to do your talks, most of it is the computer, ground control and luck right? so long as you also had been under intense Gs before.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .