Is it more a case of correlation or causation that most astronauts have a fairly "straightforward" or direct career path?

When I look at the biographies of previous and current astronauts, I tend to find two counterintuitive stats aside from the fact that most of them are very intelligent and well-rounded. That is, that most of them were originally under-achievers or were unfocused in school, and the other is that most astronauts, once in their career years, had very straightforward career paths with little deviation. For example, they will go to a military academy and then spend 20 years as a pilot, and then become an astronaut. Or they will become a scientist, doctor, or engineer, and become highly proficient in that discipline and then become an astronaut. I'm curious if this is causation (Is that consistency what NASA looks for?) or just correlation (do driven, intelligent people happen to be highly consistent in their careers?). As a young man who is very interested in at least applying for the astronaut corps some day, I am a pretty smart guy and immensely interested in science and philosophy, as well as military service. But my strength seems to be my breadth of curiosity (wanting to serve AND go into science AND get a pilots license AND run a non-profit) and ability to connect disparate interests. I am curious if this is the type of attribute that would be seen as inconsistent and hinder applying someday in the distamt future

3 Answers

  • 7 months ago

    Correlation and causation are not mutually exclusive.

  • 7 months ago

    I don't believe your story about their being under-achievers at school. Allan Shepard skipped 6th and 8th grades. Neil Armstrong enrolled at Purdue to study aeronautical engineering (straight out of HS), although he'd been accepted at MIT. How did Judith Resnick get into Carnegie-Mellon? How did Sally Ride get into Swarthmore and Stanford?

    I acknowledge that some early astronauts went to military service right after high school, but those days were different from these days (when every idiot is expected to Go to College).

    Of course their post-HS career paths were impressive; else they would not have been selected for the astronaut corps. You have re-discovered the obvious.

    • Rowan7 months agoReport

      But I was mostly just making the point that, even if when younger they had trouble finding direction (as with many other successful people), they later in life tend to become people who are highly structured in their endeavors, and generally don't transition much within or outside their fields

  • 7 months ago

    Ask somebody in that line of work, write an astronaut, see what happens.

    • Rowan7 months agoReport

      Thanks for the suggestion, actually a great idea. I might try to reach out to a couple and determine what the common factors seem to be!

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