NASA has announced on Tuesday that it is seeking to boost its astronaut corps as part of plans to dramatically expand its crewed space missions in the coming years. Currently astronaut corps have 48 active personnel.
“We’re celebrating our 20th year of continuous presence aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in low-Earth orbit this year, and we’re on the verge of sending the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
“For the handful of highly talented women and men we will hire to join our diverse astronaut corps, it’s an incredible time in human spaceflight to be an astronaut. We’re asking all eligible Americans if they have what it takes to apply beginning 2 March.”
To qualify you have to be an US citizen with a Mster’s degree in science, engineering or mathematics (STEM). You can also qualify by being a test pilot or being wo years into a STEM Phd program. A medical degree or a degree in osteopathic medicine will also work.
NASA is asking for at least two years of professional experience from the candidates or 1000 hours of pilot-in-command time. There will also be a two hour online test that the candidates should complete. The recruitment process is known to be fiercely competitive. Just to highlight, the class of 11 astronauts that had graduated in January was picked from a record-breaking number of 18000 applicants.
NASA plans to select the next class by mid-2021, after which the candidates will start a two-year training program at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Classes include spacewalking at NASA’s underwater Neutral Buoyancy Lab, robotics, the systems of the International Space Station and piloting the T-38 training jet, Russian language lessons, and the building blocks of the Artemis program to return to the Moon by 2024.
The select few will get to venture into space, as NASA looks to resume sending US astronauts to the ISS on private US rockets. By 2030s NASA is aiming to head its astronomers as far as Mars. As commercial crew program is nearing success with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon almost ready for its first manned flight to ISS, the coming years will need a lot of more astronauts to expand the human presence in space.