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Episode Info: Scott Washburn can’t remember a time when he didn’t want to be an astronaut. “I wanted to serve my country in some form or fashion, so I started looking around. I first looked at becoming a pilot. However, I wore glasses back then and at the time – 1999 – the services allowed Lasik but NASA didn’t. I didn’t want to get Lasik and then eventually give myself a long term disqualification. I looked everywhere and I actually didn’t think about submarines very much,” he says. “I got a postcard in the mail one day that said, ‘Hey, would you like to serve your country and use your engineering skills to be a submarine officer?’ I thought, that actually sounds pretty cool. At the time there had never been a submariner astronaut before. I thought, this is a great analog because you’ve got this confined isolated environment experience and that would translate really well to being an astronaut on a shuttle or a space station. I signed up in 1999, and in 2000 NASA picked up their first ever submariner astronaut. Scott’s time in the Navy with submarines was a natural first step for a career in aviation.  “I was really passionate about the space industry and I had this great nuclear background so I ended up getting into radiation effects, which I thought was a great way to merge my nuclear and aerospace backgrounds.” But just being a submariner, or a pilot is not all that is required to become an astronaut.  “NASA is looking for a broad set of skills,” Scott says. “Getting to that point has been a lifelong ambition of mine and I have been building up my skill set along the way. One is your primary career – [NASA] wants people who are good at their jobs and have some relation to space or exploration. There are additional skills that help you stand out too. I went and learned how to scuba dive, and got my private pilot’s license, and did all these other things to build up my resume so I would be interesting to them as an astronaut candidate.” And in 2016, Scott made it to the finalist selection group, beating out nearly 18,300 other applicants and landing among the top 50 candidates to potentially go into space.“NASA takes all their applicants and filter down to 300-500 peop
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