If you’ve ever wanted to ride a rocket into space and see the stars beyond the horizon, then you’re not alone.
This year, more than 18,300 people applied for NASA’s 2017 astronaut class breaking the 1978 record of 8,000 applicants, former astronaut and NASA administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement.
“It’s not at all surprising to me that so many Americans from diverse backgrounds want to personally contribute to blazing the trail on our journey to Mars.”
NASA’s huge social media push, along with Hollywood’s renewed interest in space travel, undoubtedly contributed to the record breaking number of applicants wanting to fly in space.
Astronaut applications opened Dec. 14 and closed on Thursday. Now, NASA officials must spend the next year and a half sorting through candidates until they find the eight to 14 people best suited to fly into space. They will be the first American astronauts to fly into space on American owned spaceships from Florida’s Space Center since the shuttle was scrapped in 2011.
“A few exceptionally talented men and women will become the astronauts chosen in this group who will once again launch to space from U.S. soil on American-made spacecraft.”
After the selection process, the astronaut trainees will undergo two years of spacecraft training, spacewalking skills classes and team building; they’ll also have to learn Russian.
— Intl. Space Station (@Space_Station) February 19, 2016
After graduation, the newly minted astronauts will be assigned to one of four different spacecraft: the International Space Station, NASA’s Orion deep space exploration ship, or one of two private spaceships’ currently being built.
The new astronauts could find themselves piloting Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner or the Space X Crew Dragon; both ships are designed for travel to and from the International Space Station.
NASA plans to put a man on Mars sometime in the 2030s, but before that can happen it needs to successfully complete a number of other missions including a lunar flyby sometime around 2023.
— NASA (@NASA) February 14, 2016
After that, NASA plans to send astronauts to visit a small asteroid in orbit around the moon in 2025.
In the meantime, astronauts will have to settle for flying to the International Space Station, which NASA has committed to manning through 2024 and possibly 2028.
Do you have what it takes to be a NASA astronaut?
All astronauts must possess a bachelor’s degree in science, engineering or computers and be citizens of the United States. Candidates must have three years of related professional experience or 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in a jet aircraft. They must also be able to pass a rigorous NASA physical certifying great eyesight, good blood pressure and correct height measurements: astronaut candidates must be between 62 and 75 inches to be shot into space.
— NASA (@NASA) February 19, 2016
Mission Specialists work with the commander and pilot and are responsible for overseeing ship operations while in space; they’re required to have knowledge of the shuttle systems and mission parameters.
Payload Specialists have specialized duties aboard the spacecraft and may be added to ships involved in special missions. They can be nominated by NASA or foreign countries based on specific needs of the mission.
NASA is looking for astronaut candidates from all walks of life to help them complete a manned mission to Mars, Bolden said.
“NASA is on an ambitious journey to Mars and we’re looking for talented men and women from diverse backgrounds and every walk of life to help get us there.”
It’s not too early to start your application for NASA’s next astronaut class; apply now.
[Photo By NASA/Getty Images]