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Bell Curve


You've got the right stuff. Salary: $65,000 

As a fresh recruit to NASA's program, you're still getting your feet wet, so to speak. And actually, you really are getting your feet wet, because the best place to test you in zero gravity on Earth is in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Your odds of drowning in space are precisely zero, but as an added bonus you'll learn how to survive that too.


In a galaxy not all that far away. Salary: $75,000 

You've majored in astrophysics so your job at NASA is to work on science projects at Mission Control. You're qualified to go up to space whenever the opportunity arises. However, thanks to your major you're really good at math—and as far as the opportunity goes, you're not all that thrilled with your odds.


Here you are sitting in a tin can. Salary: $90,000 

You've finally gotten the call and are prepared to head up to space. As the Russian launch team straps you into your seat on the Soyuz space vehicle, you remark about how much things have changed since the end of the Cold War in the '80s. One of the crew replies that not everything's changed, as he pats the side of the craft and shuts the door. Good luck?


Just what do you think you're doing, Dave? Salary: $110,000 

You're enjoying your six-month stint in space as one of the few chosen as part of the International Space Station crew. From here you can see Earth from quite a view. For now, you'll have to enjoy it from the tiny lavatory window. Today's primary mission: fixing the space toilet.


To infinity and beyond. Salary: $150,000 

After logging over two years' worth of time in space on your various missions, you're ready to put the spacefaring part of your life behind you. You walk into the meeting room for your first major NASA talk as a consultant. As they begin to explain the upcoming mission to Mars, you decide you're not ready to hang up those space boots just yet.