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Metaphors of "stratospheric" and "meteoric" wouldn't apply to the salaries of astronauts. Remember, civilian astronauts are government employees, and the salary grades do apply. Those grades are GS-11, which, as of 2011, starts at $64,724 a year, to GS-14, which ascends up to $141,715 a year. Astronauts who are in the military are paid according to active duty military pay grades, based on rank and years of service.

But wait, there's a lot more. Former astronauts can amplify earnings by writing best-selling books, going on speaking tours or even getting into politics. Astronaut John Glenn was a senator from Ohio for 25 years. But how you make your extra money is up to you, because it's tough to get rich on the government dime.

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