The Pilot astronaut includes both pilots and commanders. The commander is responsible for the overall operation of a spacecraft, like the Space Shuttle, during flight. The pilot’s primary duty is to control the flight of the vehicle, particularly during liftoff and reentry. An astronaut typically must have flown at least one mission as pilot before becoming a commander.
A Pilot astronaut must have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in a technical field, which includes engineering, biological science, physical science, or mathematics. An advanced master’s or doctorate degree is preferred. The applicant must also have at least 1,000 hours of flight experience as pilot in jet-powered aircraft. Experience as a test pilot is also highly desirable. It is for this reason that nearly all Pilot astronauts are former military pilots, especially military test pilots.
Pilots astronauts must also meet certain physical requirements. The applicant must pass a NASA Class I physical. Among the requirements for such a physical are 20/100 or better uncorrected vision that is correctable to 20/20 in each eye. In addition, blood pressure must be no higher than 140/90 when in a sitting position. The applicant must also have a height no less than 5 ft, 4 in (1.62 m) and no greater than 6 ft, 4 in (1.93 m).