NASA Astronauts Salary: How Much Do Astronauts Get Paid?

As one of the most dangerous and demanding jobs in the world, it’s no surprise that astronauts are among the highest-paid professionals. On average, astronauts earn an annual salary of $100,000 or more. However, the exact amount will vary depending on many factors, such as experience and mission type. So, how much do astronauts get paid? That’s not an easy answer. 

Astronauts also receive a number of perks and benefits, including free housing at NASA’s headquarters in Houston and a comprehensive health insurance plan. In addition, they are given a stipend to cover the cost of meals and other expenses while on a mission. As a result, being an astronaut is not only exciting but also very lucrative.

Learn in This Article

  • What Is an Astronaut
  • How Much Do Astronauts Get Paid
  • NASA Astronaut Salary
  • SpaceX Salary
  • Astronaut Compensation and Benefits
  • How Much Were the First Astronauts Paid
  • Do Astronauts Get Paid for Life

What Is an Astronaut

An astronaut is a highly skilled professional tasked with challenging and dangerous missions in space. To become an astronaut, one must first earn a Master’s degree in engineering or science and complete years of specialized training and experience. In addition to their technical expertise, astronauts must also possess excellent physical fitness and mental resilience, as the job can be both physically and mentally demanding.


Being an astronaut is a lot more than just floating around in space. So, what is an astronaut’s job really? In addition to their scientific and technical expertise, astronauts maintain their composure in stressful situations and make quick decisions. They also need to be physically fit, as they may need to perform emergency spacewalks or lift heavy objects.

Furthermore, astronauts must be able to communicate effectively with mission control and other members of the crew. As such, they need to understand both the science behind their mission and the technology they are using. Astronauts also need to be able to operate in a microgravity environment and complete tasks while wearing a spacesuit.

Therefore, being an astronaut is a challenging and demanding job. However, it’s also an immensely rewarding one, as astronauts get to play a vital role in exploration and discovery.


Becoming an astronaut requires more than just a love of space travel. Aspiring astronauts must first earn a Master’s degree in a relevant STEM field, i.e., engineering, computer science, or mathematics. Then they have to go into a training program, where they undergo a rigorous selection process that includes physical, psychological, and medical tests.

Once they are selected, astronauts must complete a demanding training regimen that encompasses everything from technical skills to survival training. This training helps them develop the skills they need to carry out their duties safely. Without this training, astronauts would not be able to function properly in space.

In addition, they must be prepared to deal with the unique challenges of living and working in space. Astronauts need to be able to operate various types of equipment, including communications and life support systems. They also need to be able to repair equipment if it breaks down.

Furthermore, astronauts need to be able to navigate their way around the spacecraft and make accurate measurements. All of these skills are necessary for astronauts to complete their missions successfully.

How Much Do Astronauts Get Paid

Astronauts’ salaries depend on a few different factors, including their experience, rank, and the specific agency they work for. Therefore, it’s safe to say that astronauts are some of the highest-paid professionals in the world. Average salaries for astronauts are around $100,000 per year or more, not to mention extra compensation for their housing and healthcare.

Astronauts who work for private companies like SpaceX earn even more. In general, it’s safe to say that astronauts are well-compensated for their skills and experience.

How Much Do Astronauts Get Paid
Photo by Adam Miller

Civilian Salaries

Astronauts who work for civilian agencies like NASA earn a base salary of $104,898 per year. However, their salaries can increase to $161,141 per year. Furthermore, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said that he would be willing to pay his astronauts up to $500,000 for a trip to Mars.

So, if you’re interested in becoming an astronaut, you can expect to earn a hefty salary, regardless of whether you work for the government or a private company. In fact, many people consider it to be a rewarding career choice, both financially and otherwise.

Military Salaries

While most astronauts are civilians, there are also a significant number of military astronauts. Military astronauts typically have the same training and qualifications as their civilian counterparts. However, their salaries are set by the Department of Defense and are usually lower than those of civilian astronauts.

For example, a colonel in the United States Air Force with 20 years of experience can earn a base salary of $138,247 per year. Meanwhile, a major in the Air Force with the same experience can expect to earn around $105,663 annually.

In general, military astronauts are paid less than civilian astronauts for their work in space. However, they also receive several additional benefits, such as healthcare and retirement plans that are not typically available to civilian astronauts.

So, if you’re looking for a career in space, it’s worth considering both the military and civilian options. Ultimately, which path you choose will depend on your own personal preferences and priorities.

NASA Astronaut Salary

As a NASA astronaut, you are tasked with some of the most challenging and rewarding work in the world. Not only do you get to explore space and conduct groundbreaking research, but you also have the opportunity to earn a competitive salary. According to estimates from Glassdoor, a starting salary for an entry-level astronaut is around $100,000 per year.

With additional experience and responsibility, this number can rise significantly. Astronauts with more than ten years of experience can earn a six-figure salary, while astronauts who hold leading roles at NASA may even earn up to $300,000 per year. With such an exciting job comes incredible benefits and various incentives such as training opportunities, paid time off, medical coverage, and retirement benefits.

So if you’re interested in exploring the final frontier and making a real difference in the world, consider becoming a NASA astronaut—it just might be the best decision you ever made!

How Much Do Astronauts Get Paid
Photo by Brian McGowan

SpaceX Salary

SpaceX is one of the leading private space exploration companies in the world today. Its missions to the Moon and beyond have captured people’s imaginations around the globe. Its goal to create a human colony on Mars is widely considered to be within reach.

Naturally, as an astronaut with SpaceX, you would be at the forefront of this exciting endeavor, conducting cutting-edge research and helping to expand our understanding of space. Of course, you would be handsomely compensated for your contributions. With SpaceX offering a starting salary that can range from $120,000 to $200,000 depending on experience level and other factors, they provide an attractive salary for those interested in entering or continuing in the world and the numbers regarding space exploration.

So, if you’re passionate about space and dream of being one of the pioneers of human interstellar travel, consider pursuing a career at SpaceX.

Astronaut Compensation and Benefits

As an astronaut, you can expect to receive a highly competitive salary and a variety of other benefits and incentives. To begin with, your salary as an astronaut will depend on several factors, including your level of experience, the type of work you are doing, and your location. However, it’s generally safe to say that astronauts can expect to earn hefty salaries. 

In addition, astronauts receive other benefits, such as paid time off, medical coverage, and retirement plans. These benefits are designed to help astronauts maintain a healthy work-life balance and encourage them to stay with the agency long-term.

So, whether you pursue a career at NASA or SpaceX, the opportunities to advance human knowledge and explore space are truly limitless. 

How Much Were the First Astronauts Paid

The first astronauts to travel into space were some of the most highly trained and skilled professionals in the world. As such, they were compensated very generously for their work.

In 1962, the starting astronaut salary in NASA was $8,330 to $12,770 per year based on level of experience. This was more than double the average wage at that time. This meant that the early astronauts were earning well over $100,000 in today’s money for their efforts.

Given the risks involved in spaceflight, it’s not surprising that NASA was willing to pay top dollar to attract the best and brightest pilots to its ranks. While salaries have increased significantly since those early days, it is clear that the first astronauts were very well compensated for their work.

Furthermore, the original Mercury 7 astronauts, who were all test pilots, were offered an astronaut pilot salary of $8,330 to $12,770 annually. Overall, the first astronauts were generally well-compensated for their work.

How Much Do Astronauts Get Paid
Photo by Ju Guan

What Were the Apollo 11 Astronauts’ Salaries

The Apollo 11 astronauts, who were the first to land on the Moon in 1969, were among the highest-paid professionals in the world at that time.

These pioneering space explorers received a salary of $17,000 a year for their work on the lunar mission. In today’s money, this would equate to a salary of over $100,000. 

The Apollo 11 astronauts were not given any hazard pay or life insurance policies. That’s why the three astronauts, Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins, got a little creative and signed autographs that are now known as “insurance covers” so that their families could sell them. These covers are now worth over $5,000 at auctions.

Overall, the Apollo 11 astronauts were paid well for their efforts in exploring the unknown, and in doing so, they contributed significantly to humankind’s understanding of our place in the universe.

How Much Was Armstrong Paid to Walk on the Moon

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the Moon, becoming the first human being to do so. It was an achievement that captivated the imaginations of people around the globe and cemented America’s lead in the Space Race.

At the time of the Apollo 11 mission, Neil Armstrong was 38 years old and an experienced astronaut. He had completed two previous space missions, including a stint as the commander of the Apollo 8 mission that orbited the Moon. As a result, Armstrong was well-qualified to lead the historic lunar landing. In addition, he was handsome and photogenic, which made him a natural choice for the media. 

For these reasons, Armstrong was paid $27,401, or $190,684 in today’s dollars, for his role in the Apollo 11 mission—a significant sum at the time but a bargain compared to what he could have earned today. Given his experience and star power, it’s safe to say that Armstrong was worth every penny.

Do Astronauts Get Paid for Life

Like most highly trained professionals, astronauts must undergo extensive training and certification to do their jobs successfully. However, unlike many other fields, an astronaut’s work is also considered a hazardous occupation.

This means that astronauts are generally eligible for various forms of compensation when they retire from the program. In fact, NASA provides lifelong medical care and a pension to its retired astronauts.

So, while they may not be paid for life, astronauts do receive many benefits that help offset the risks of their profession. However, astronauts may enjoy many potential financial rewards once they retire. For example, some former astronauts may be eligible to receive additional retirement or pension benefits over and above those available to other federal employees.

Additionally, many former US astronauts have found success in the world of business and entrepreneurship after leaving the space program.

Ultimately, while astronauts’ salaries are generally modest while they’re working, they can still sometimes get a hefty payout once they retire from active duty. In short: no, astronauts do not get paid for life. However, they still stand to make some serious dough if they choose the right post-astronaut career path.

Key Takeaways

Whether you are interested in space exploration or not, it’s hard to deny astronauts’ incredible achievements and contributions. One of the fascinating aspects of this job is the prospect of earning a hefty salary.

At the height of the Space Race in the 1960s, Armstrong and his fellow Apollo astronauts were some of the highest-paid professionals in the world. Although other occupations have since eclipsed their salaries, astronauts still receive a decent wage for their work.

Thanks to their skills and experience, they can make a lot of money working for private companies or even other countries. With all of the new space exploration programs happening, there will be more job opportunities for astronauts. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How much tax do you have to pay as a NASA astronaut?

As a NASA astronaut, you will be subject to both federal and state taxes on your income. The exact amount of tax you will have to pay will depend on a number of factors, such as your total salary and the deductions or credits you may be eligible for.

How much does a mission flight specialist make?

Mission flight specialists are responsible for performing critical roles during space missions, including piloting spacecraft and ensuring that the astronauts are safe and healthy. As such, they typically earn a higher salary than other astronauts. According to data from NASA, mission flight specialists make an average annual salary of around $100,000.

How much does the US government pay astronauts?

The United States government is the largest employer of astronauts. As such, it sets the salary standards for the profession. According to a report from The Washington Post, the answer to “how much do astronauts get paid” is $104,898 to $161,141 per year. However, this figure doesn’t take into account additional income sources such as bonuses or hazard pay.