Applications for becoming an astronaut for NASA have been record high this year. More than 18,000 people have applied for just 14 places on NASA’s latest astronaut training intake, according to the space agency.
With a record-breaking 18,300-plus applications and just 14 spots, applicants have less than a.08 percent chance of getting picked for training.
That figure surpassed the record set in 1978 of 8,000 applications said NASA in a statement. Only 6,300 applied in 2012, and that was the second biggest application pool of all time.
Applications this time around opened in mid-December and closed Thursday, February 18. NASA opens applications on an as-required basis.
What is the reason behind the rising number of applicants for the post of astronauts? One of the reasons could be NASA’s increased social media presence in recent years. The agency shared information about its of space exploration, inspiring the masses in 2015. NASA’s New Horizons mission completed a historic flyby of the Pluto system, and which made a great case for the PR. NASA also designed a marketing campaign around the blockbuster film “The Martian,” in which Matt Damon plays a NASA astronaut stranded on Mars.
Between now and then, NASA’s Astronaut Selection Board will review the applications, assessing each candidate’s qualifications. The board then will invite the most qualified candidates to the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston for interviews before the final selection is made and the new astronaut candidates report to Johnson for training.
Brian Kelly, director of Flight Operations at Johnson Space Center in Houston, said the following.
“We have our work cut out for us with this many applications. But it’s heartening to know so many people recognize what a great opportunity this is to be part of NASA’s exciting mission.”
There is no exact schedule about when NASA will actually get a crewed mission to Mars. NASA’s current number of active astronauts is historically low thanks to the retirement of the Space Shuttle program in 2011. But, over the course of the past year, the agency got the public thinking about the places humanity might get to go.
NASA Administrator and former astronaut Charlie Bolden said in the agency’s press release,
“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. 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.”
Applicants for the Candidate Program must be citizens of the United States. They must also have a bachelor’s degree with a major study in an appropriate field of engineering, biological science, physical science, or mathematics. Chosen candidates will go through about two years of initial training on spacecraft systems, spacewalking skills, teamwork, Russian language and other skills.
The application process takes 18 months and selected candidates have to undergo a couple of years of intensive training before they can be a part of mission assignments. There are talks of a Mars mission in the early 2030s, which makes this call for applicants particularly exciting. These potential astronauts won’t be ready to train for specific missions until 2020 and one cannot say when NASA will have room for more trainees. NASA said it will announce its selections in mid-2017.
Many people have the basic qualifications for astronaut training. But, chances are that many of these 18,300 or so applications will be from people who lack the necessary degrees in science and experience in either flight, lab work, or teaching. They will probably not make it to the next rung of the ladder. Only around 500 applications deemed “most qualified” will have their references checked, reports The Washington Post. Only about 120 are usually brought to the Johnson Space Center in Houston for interviews.
In the past, applicants who have met the minimum requirements got reviewed by panels focusing on areas like aviation, education and engineering, Patrick Forrester, a veteran astronaut and deputy chief of the astronaut office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, told Newsweek.
Until now, NASA has selected more than 300 astronauts to fly on its increasingly challenging missions to explore space and benefit life on Earth. There are 47 astronauts in the active astronaut corps, and more will be needed to crew future missions to the space station and destinations in deep space.
[Photo by ESA via Getty Images]