NASA is hiring astronauts! For the first time since 2011, the space agency is adding new men and women to its astronaut core, MSN is reporting.
— NASA (@NASA) November 4, 2015
NASA is pulling out all the stops to get the public excited about the latest round of astronaut hiring, including starting the hashtag #BeAnAstronaut on social media, and holding a live Q&A session about the life of an astronaut with NASA’s own Christina Hammock Koch.
Don’t think applying to be a NASA astronaut is easy: during the last round of hiring, the space agency received some 6,300 applications, according to the Christian Science Monitor. Eight astronauts were hired. Astronaut applicants must have a Bachelor’s Degree in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) field, along with three years’ work in further teaching, research, or study, or at least 1,000 hours flying jet aircraft. Applicants with advanced degrees are preferred. Applicants must also meet NASA’s fitness requirements, be between 5’2″ and 6’3″ tall, and pass the NASA long-duration spaceflight physical. Teachers, in particular, are encouraged to apply. Manned space flight hasn’t been NASA’s top priority for the past couple of decades. Sending living astronauts into space is orders of magnitude more complicated, dangerous, and expensive than sending equipment up there, and deep funding cuts — coupled with the deadly space shuttle Challenger and Columbia disasters — forced NASA to cut down its astronaut core by about a third. Instead, the agency has focused on unmanned missions, sending satellites, telescopes, and probes into space in favor of living humans.
— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) October 13, 2015
Since retiring the space shuttle program in 2007, NASA has been without a way of even sending astronauts into space. As of this writing, there’s only one way to get an astronaut into space: hitching a ride on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. And there’s only one place for them to go: the International Space Station (ISS), which currently has a rotating crew of six astronauts, although there are plans to send a seventh up there at some point.
That’s all about to change as NASA looks towards Mars. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, himself a former astronaut, noted that putting living humans on Mars is the agency’s long-term goal.
“This next group of American space explorers will inspire the Mars generation to reach for new heights, and help us realize the goal of putting boot prints on the Red Planet.”
Further, with four new types of spacecraft in development, NASA needs astronauts to test and fly them, according to a statement on the agency’s website.
“With more human spacecraft in development in the United States today than at any other time in history, future astronauts will launch once again from the Space Coast of Florida on American-made commercial spacecraft, and carry out deep-space exploration missions that will advance a future human mission to Mars. The next class of astronauts may fly on any of four different US vessels during their careers: the International Space Station, two commercial crew spacecraft currently in development by US companies, and NASA’s Orion deep-space exploration vehicle.”
The next round of NASA astronaut hiring will be complete, and the names of new astronauts announced, in 2017.
If you think you’ve got what it takes, you can apply to be hired as an astronaut at NASA by submitting your application here.
[Photo by NASA via Getty Images]