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Six Careers That Combine Chemistry and Space Exploration

Written by: Space Foundation Editorial Team

The space and space-adjacent industries are booming, and there’s a huge demand for professional scientists who love chemistry to join the workforce.

Combining chemistry and space brings forth a myriad of career opportunities. Today, we will spotlight five popular careers that combine the two and are worth considering.

Read more about the growth in the space workforce.

Six Careers that Combine Chemistry and Space


AstrochemistryAstrochemists are part chemists and part astronomers who study and analyze the chemicals, mainly atoms and molecules, found in space.

Astrochemists must be skilled at collecting and analyzing data. Additionally, they must be able to design and develop experiments, computer models, and simulations to understand chemical competitions and reactions that occur in space. This helps other scientists better understand how the elements in our universe were formed.

In addition to working for NASA and other governmental agencies, astrochemists often work in research laboratories, universities, museums, planetariums, and more.

Chemical Engineering

Chemical engineers are professionals who develop and create chemical products, including fuel, manufactured goods, food, and more.

These scientists play an essential role in many aspects of space exploration, including the creation of spacecraft, satellites, and spacesuits. They must develop and manufacture materials and fuels that can withstand the extreme heat and pressure associated with space travel.

Chemical engineers often work in laboratories and onsite at manufacturing locations.

Planetary Science

A planetary scientist works to improve our understanding of planets and planetary systems to understand their formation and composition to better understand possible paths for evolution.

Chemistry plays an important role in helping guide their understanding because these scientists must analyze the chemical composition of the planets in our solar system. One example of something they analyze would be the chemical makeup of the rocks and atmospheric gasses on the planets Mars and Venus.

These professionals work in a variety of settings, including laboratories, astronomy facilities, and spacecraft and landers.

Space Medicine

Space medicine is a branch of medicine that is concerned with the physical and mental health of astronauts and others traveling into outer space.

These professionals must understand how humans react to micro and zero gravity conditions, radiation and all the environmental changes that occur during space travel. This requires an advanced knowledge of biochemistry, physiology and pharmacology.

There are two primary paths to consider if you’re interested in space medicine. You can be a physician who works directly with patients going into space or a space medicine researcher who develops treatments for various conditions associated with space travel and designs methods to optimize astronauts’ health.

Space medicine practitioners often work for the military, space agencies, commercial airline companies, independent research facilities, and academia.

Payload Speciality

payload specialistA payload specialist is a scientist, in this case, a chemist, who flies on a spacecraft to conduct research, perform specific scientific tasks, conduct experiments, maintain scientific equipment, and more.

A chemical payload specialist must be trained for spaceflight but is only responsible for working with other spacecraft engineers to ensure their experiments are conducted correctly and safely in space.

Spacecraft Propulsion

Spacecraft propulsion involves any method used to launch spacecraft and satellites out of Earth’s orbit into outer space.

Scientists involved in these efforts must have a strong background in chemistry in order to develop propulsion systems and aid in creating more efficient rocket fuels.

These scientists work for governmental organizations, space agencies, private corporations, and academic organizations.

Learn about other space industry career paths.

What do I need to do to prepare for a career in space?

To adequately prepare for a career in space and chemistry, you must strengthen your math and science knowledge. Enroll in courses that will prepare you for this rigorous career path.

Consider looking into research opportunities, internships, and co-op opportunities to gain real-world experience in this field. These opportunities may exist beyond academic and space institutions; consider looking into opportunities at private research institutions and corporations as well.

Look for space and/or chemistry organizations to join. In these organizations, you can learn from professionals in the field and build connections that will serve you well in your professional careers.

Lastly, continue reading articles like these and others found on our websites, books and scientific journals to stay informed on recent developments and innovations in space travel.

Continue Learning About the Space Industry

SCI Pro Dev ImageCenter for Innovation and Education offers a variety of workforce development and educational programs for students, teachers, and other professionals.

For students, we offer a variety of educational opportunities, activities, and programs to facilitate an interest in STEAM.

For educators, we offer lesson plans, e-learning tools, seminars, professional development programs, scholarships, and more to help integrate STEAM into the classroom.
For professionals and entrepreneurs, Space Commerce Institute offers courses, consulting services, professional development programs, and more.