For the first time in four years, NASA opened applications for new astronauts. On Thursday, April 2, the space program announced that more than 12,000 applications were received. It was the second-highest number of applicants ever sent to NASA, according to ABC News. People from every U.S. state, the District of Columbia, and four U.S. territories applied to enter the class."We've entered a bold new era of space exploration with the Artemis program, and we are thrilled to see so many incredible Americans apply to join us," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
Those selected to join the Artemis generation of astronauts could participate in highly anticipated missions. NASA plans to send the first woman to the moon by 2024. The federal agency also hopes to take what it calls "humanity's next giant leap: human missions to Mars." The space program aims to send the first humans to Mars in the 2030s."America is closer than any other time in history since the Apollo program to returning astronauts to the moon. We will send the first woman and next man to the lunar South Pole by 2024, and we need more astronauts to follow suit on the moon, and then Mars," Bridenstine said.
While the Astronaut Selection Board is still early in the process, the agency sought "diverse" applicants from "every walk of life," as Bridenstine said, according to ABC News. The candidates who are most qualified to enter the highly selective class and become astronauts will receive invitations to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Final interviews and medical tests will be conducted there.
"We're able to build such a strong astronaut corps at NASA because we have such a strong pool of applicants to choose from. It's always amazing to see the diversity of education, experience and skills that are represented in our applicants," said Anne Roemer, manager of the Astronaut Selection Board.
Selected candidates will undergo two years of rigorous training and skill development. Subjects include skills and tasks like spacewalking, spacecraft systems, and robotics. All will need to be mastered to successfully become an astronaut.
Once the class launches into space, they will live and work aboard the International Space Station. The space station sits 250 miles above Earth. It will also serve as a lab for conducting experiments leading up to the missions to the moon and Mars.
New astronauts will be introduced at NASA by summer of 2021. Salary for the new astronauts will range between $104,898 to $161,141 per year.