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Salary

Average Salary: $82,700

Expected Lifetime Earnings: $2,902,000


While your average spaceperson does their job by strapping giant rockets to their backs (or something like that), words like stratospheric and meteoric don't actually apply to the salaries of astronauts.

These jobs are one-hundred percent taxpayer funded, which means there's a reasonable but not astronomical amount of cash involved. Since civilian astronauts are government employees, the General Schedule of salary grades apply.

The General Schedule is a step-based chart by which all non-elected civilian government employees are paid. Everyone from FBI Special Agents, to IRS accountants, to the person who records notes at government meetings, is paid according to where they fall on the Schedule.

You, our intrepid space wanderer, will start at the higher end of the GS and work up from there. Try not to brag too much to your friends about it; you already have that whole astronaut thing going for you.

Starting out, you'll be welcomed into NASA's warm embrace with a starting level GS-11, beginning at around $65,000 a year. Sure, it's not a huge sum of money, but you're probably not going up into space all that much either. As with all jobs, you've got to earn that extra pay. Keep flying those missions and conducting those experiments, and eventually you'll move all the way up to GS-14 and a nice $100,000 a year.

You're also going to make a pretty penny on locality pay, or what extra percentage of your salary the government pays you because you live in an expensive place. That basically means that you're going to get extra cash because you live in Florida, and Florida can be pricey.

 
Just make sure to avoid Space Mountain. (Source)

This doesn't mean you should be going to Disney World every day you have off—but it also doesn't mean you shouldn't.

Of course, if you're coming from the Air Force or Navy, that all goes out the window. Astronauts who are in the military are paid according to active duty military pay grades, based on rank and years of service (source). 

Regardless of where you come from, where you're going is a definite money-maker. No, not space; we're talking about speaking and publishing fees. After all, what's a more appropriate example of an interesting motivator than someone who goes to space for a living?

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