Thousands of people have applied to become astronauts for NASA’s next program. The deadline was last Thursday and it seems the space agency will have a lot of work to do when sorting the 18,300 applications.
According to NASA, the number is thrice as much as in 2012. The previous record of applications was back in 1978 when 8,000 people wanted to become astronauts. From the total of 18,000, the agency will choose between eight and fourteen people to fulfill their dream and maybe travel to Mars in the 2030s. The decision is expected to be made before summer 2017, so the applicants will have quite some time to wait.
The reason why so many people decided to send their applications could stand in the fact that the Mars trip is closing in, but also in the new discoveries that have been made lately, from the comet lander to the pictures of Pluto. According to Charles Boden, the administrator of NASA, the number of applications does not truly come as a surprise. Numerous Americans with diverse backgrounds wish to become involved in the incredible journey to Mars.
The applications will be reviewed by the Astronaut Selection Board of NASA during the next eighteen months, which will determine the best qualified candidates.
Taking a look at the past, in 1959 NASA had to select seven astronauts from five hundred military men, all with experience in jet aircraft flight and engineering. However, as the years passed, in 1964 the space agency started to focus on individuals with academic backgrounds. Candidates needed to have an engineering, medicine or natural sciences doctorate degree in order to be eligible.
At the moment, those who wish to become astronauts must have a bachelor’s degree in either engineering, natural sciences or mathematics, but also three years of practical experience in one of the related fields. For instance, pilots need about one thousand flight hours in a jet. However, they also need to fulfill other criteria such as having a height from 62 to 75 inches and 20/20 vision. Furthermore, they must pass various tests, such as the space flight physical for long durations of time.
Applicants who are qualified for the job will then have interviews at the Johnson Space Center. The eight to fourteen candidates that will be selected will go through a rigorous training that lasts for two years and involves spacewalking, learning about spacecraft systems and learning the Russian language. Then, they will begin their jobs at the Houston Astronaut Office after which they will be assigned to one of the following spacecraft: Crew Dragon from SpaceX, Starliner from Boeing or Orion, the International Space Station.
The fact that thousands of people have applied to become astronauts is not a surprise because there are many people in the world who wish to do or become something truly special during their lifetimes.
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