NASA announces timeline for astronaut application process
NASA is preparing toaccept applications from individuals hoping to join the ranks of thenext generation of astronauts. Some of the lucky few selected by NASAfor astronaut training could travel in new commercial and government-produced spacecraft to destinations hitherto untouched by ourfledgling species.
The wish to become anastronaut is an aspiration shared by many, but achieved by few. NASAhas trained only 338 astronauts since the advent of mannedspaceflight, so potential applicants should try not to get theirhopes up too high.
The agency is requiringapplicants to hold a bachelor's degree, or an advanced degree in oneof the following disciplines – engineering, biological science,physical science or mathematics. Furthermore, candidates must possessat least three years of related professional experience in theirfield, or must have accrued over 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command timein jet aircraft. NASA will begin accepting applications starting fromDec. 14, with the cut-off date currently set for mid-February 2016.
The next generation ofastronauts will travel to low Earth orbit aboard the commercially-built Boeing Starliner and Crew Dragon spacecraft,which when operational, will grant US astronauts unprecedentedindependent access to low-Earth orbit.
For operations furtherafield, including the agency's planned presence in cislunar spaceand eventually amission to Mars, astronauts will be transported by the NASA-developedOrion spacecraft,and a (currently conceptual) long-term transportation habitat.
Alongsideoperating and testing cutting edge equipment, future astronauts willbe psychologically challenged more than any previous spacefarers, asa mission to Mars would see a crew withstand a minimum of 1,100 daysoff-world, with essentially no chance of aid from Earth should theworst come to pass.
"This is an excitingtime to be a part of America’s human space flight program,"states Brian Kelly, director of Flight Operations at NASA’s JohnsonSpace Center, Houston. "NASA has taken the next step in theevolution of our nation’s human spaceflight program – and ourUS astronauts will be at the forefront of these new and challengingspace flight missions. We encourage all qualified applicants to learnmore about the opportunities for astronauts at NASA and apply to joinour flight operations team."
Finally, as a heads-upfor those looking to apply, NASA isn't expecting to make a finaldecision on successful applicants until mid-2017, so it's probablybest to hold onto your day job for now.