Astronaut salary 101: How much do they get paid in different countries

19th Jul 2022
Astronaut salary 101: How much do they get paid in different countries

A high-flying career is always highly paid. This applies to any profession because every high result is backed up by titanic work. On Earth, unique skills can cost hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars a year, but what if you work not on Earth but in space? Due to your numerous requests, we decided to tell you how much astronauts get paid.

The icing on the cake

The space industry employs thousands of different professionals, but when it comes to manned missions, astronauts are the tip of the iceberg. They are the ones trained for the most responsible and dangerous work: spacecraft control, operations at the space station and in outer space, and even landing on the surface of another celestial body, as was the case with the Apollo lunar mission.

Most often, military pilots are selected for this job, as they are real aces of aviation who perfectly tolerate overloads at high altitudes. But even their skills are not enough for space flights, so future astronauts go through a strict selection. You may be an excellent civilian or military pilot, but if you decide to become an astronaut, you will face years of grueling training and psychological tests. And not everyone can take it.

The right to become an astronaut deserves 1 out of 100 applicants, but even in this case, there is no certainty that one will be entrusted with a manned space mission. Some astronauts remain in reserve their entire careers, but never stop training. First, it is their job; and second, a call may come through any moment, and one can hear the cherished words on the other end: you are flying into space.

So, how much do astronauts get paid? As with any other job, astronaut salary depends on specialisation, level of training, and experience. Let’s find out the astronaut wage in different countries.

Astronaut salary in the USA

In NASA astronaut salary is calculated based on the General Schedule (US civil service pay scale) from GS11 to GS15 (max) class. In 2022, this amount ranges from $57,000 per year for the entry-level GS11 and $147,000 for the highest GS15 at stage 10.

Civilian astronauts at the beginning of their careers receive 4.5-5 thousand per month, while astronauts who came from the Air Force may well count on a rate of GS 13 and above right from the start. For example, an astronaut candidate who came to NASA with the rank of colonel after eight years of work will receive about $ 8,000 a month, and after 10 years — at least $ 10,000.

Also, the military has more benefits. Part of their income is tax-free, they receive a fixed housing allowance, military service allowances, and higher pension payments. At the same tie, astronaut salary in NASA barely depends on whether the astronaut works on Earth or in space. For a space flight, NASA accrues only symbolic travel allowances, usually no more than $200 per mission.

Russian astronauts salary

At Roscosmos, the monthly salary of an astronaut candidate is about $1,200, a test astronaut is $1,300, and an instructor astronaut is $1,800. This is not much, but monthly allowances of up to a quarter of the salary, the thirteenth salary, and additional payments for the length of service are provided.

Roscosmos is especially good at motivating astronauts who make space flights. In this case, the size of their salary increases with the number of missions. After three or more flights, the astronaut and instructor can receive a monthly bonus of up to 120%. In addition, crews are paid a one-time monetary reward for each flight. So, for example, some Russian ISS astronaut salary can reach 12 thousand dollars a month, but this is rather an exception to the rule.

ESA astronauts salary

European Space Agency evaluates the level of its astronaut training between classes A2 and A4 on the salary scale of the Coordinating Organisations. So, how much do ESA astronauts get paid?

When entering the astronaut corps, recruits usually receive a salary at the A2 level (about 60 thousand euros per year). After successfully completing the basic training, the astronaut moves to level A3 (70-75 thousand euros). An upgrade to the A4 level (about 85 thousand euros) usually follows after the first space flight.

Canadian astronauts salary

In Canada, astronauts are hired by the Canadian Space Agency. Similar to ESA, there is a three-level salary scale, which varies between 53 – 91 thousand US dollars. Astronaut candidates move to level 2 after completing basic training, which takes two years. Further, their salary increases with experience.

Why does Canada, not a top space country, rate its astronauts so highly? Probably because there aren’t many of them. At the end of 2018, there were 15 astronauts in CSA, 10 of them had space flight experience, and 9 had already completed their careers.

ISRO astronauts salary

The Indian Space Agency is not planning manned space flights for at least another ten years. The only Indian to go into space in 1984 was Rakesh Sharma, but his flight was part of the Soviet Soyuz T 11 expedition. However, ISRO requires a lot of other experts, paid from 40,000 to 85,000 rupees (500 – 1100 USD) per month on average. Employees are also provided with housing, tuition fees for children, pensions, and other benefits.

And how much do astronauts get paid in the UK?

Even though the UK has its own space agency, the UK Space Agency, the space flight industry in the country is not developed, although the Launch UK program is going to fix this in the near future. According to National Career Service, future British astronauts will be paid from 40 (starter) to 86 thousand pounds (experienced). In the meantime, as an ESA member country, British citizens can make up a set of ESA astronauts and get paid according to the salary scale of the Coordinating Organisations.

Who is the highest-paid astronaut ever?

According to the Boston Herald, Neil Armstrong remains the highest-paid astronaut in history. During the Apollo 11 flight in 1969, he was paid $27,401 a year, which is almost $200,000 today. Without any argument, that’s a lot. But if we evaluate the legendary walk on the moon, which lasted 2 hours and 40 minutes, then Armstrong received mere pennies for it ($240 based on the exchange rate for 2022). NASA got a very good deal given the enormous risk and responsibility the astronaut took on.

Where astronauts’ salaries are the highest?

Country/Space OrganizationStarter, wage per year (USD)Highly skilled, wage per year (USD)
USA/NASA57 983146 757
Europe/ESA64 20091 000
Canada/CSA53 00091 000
RF/Roscosmos15 60021 600 + bonuses
GB/UKSA49 200105 780
India/ISRO6 00013 200
China/CSNA20 75035 325
Astronaut salary comparison
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