NASA Asks: Do You Have The Right Stuff?
November 16, 2011

NASA Asks: Do You Have The Right Stuff?

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NASA is now accepting applications for the agency´s next class of its Astronaut Candidate Program. There´s only one problem: NASA no longer has a spaceship and is sending fewer astronauts into space at the moment.

But that should not deter qualified individuals from signing up. Starting today, you can logon to and submit your application. Those selected will be among the first to pioneer a new generation of commercial space vehicles and travel aboard a new heavy-lift rocket to outer space.

“The experience is well worth the wait,” promised NASA flight crew operations director Janet Kavandi as the space agency started its application process. A handful of astronauts each year are launching on a Russian Soyuz spaceship to the International Space Station for six-month stays.

“For 50 years, American astronauts have led the exploration of our solar system,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “Today we are getting a glimpse of why that will remain true for the next half-century. Make no mistake about it, human space flight is alive and well at NASA.”

The commercial spaceflight venture is expected to be a mainstay in about three to five years. NASA wants to pay for trips aboard these commercial crafts instead of building and maintaining their own fleet of rockets and ships. NASA also eventually hopes to fly astronauts in a government-owned Orion capsule to an asteroid or even Mars within 10 to 15 years.

Kavandi noted that NASA is currently concerned that it will not have enough astronauts for future missions, with veteran astronauts leaving the space agency for other ventures, something that a report by the National Research Council pointed out in September as well.

NASA needs about 55 astronauts, and with a new class of nine already graduated this month, their roster is up to 58. And one of those nine will get to fly to the space station as early as 2013, said Kavandi.

“We´re ready to serve; we´re ready to get going,” new astronaut Serena Aunon said at NASA headquarters.

NASA´s personnel chief said this is the agency´s biggest ever push to recruit new astronauts. In the past, when NASA had the shuttle program, the agency did not make such a big deal of searching for new astronauts, and they were swamped with applications. But because the shuttle program no longer exists, it seems astronauts are harder to come by. NASA´s new drive comes with a YouTube recruitment video complete with flashy images and techno background music.

“We need you to help plan for this future of exploration,” Bolden says in the video. “Join NASA. Get your application in now for the 2013 astronaut candidate class. Your spaceflight experience begins right now.”

If you are interested in joining NASA´s elite, be aware that it is not easy. Qualifications include a bachelor´s degree in engineering, physical science, biological science or math and three years of relevant professional experience. Applicants must be a US citizen and able to learn Russian. Applicants must know basic physics, and being a medical doctor or a teacher helps. You also must have 20/20 vision, no high blood pressure and be between 5 feet 2 inches and 6 feet 3 inches tall.

Successful applicants frequently have significant qualifications in engineering or science, or extensive experience flying high-performance aircraft.

NASA is expecting it will receive 3,000 qualified applicants, according to Kavandi. The job pays between $65,000 and $141,000 per year. Also, all those who are hired must relocate to Houston and be expected to do lots of traveling to foreign countries, and possibly into space.

NASA is accepting applications through January 27, 2012. After applicant interviews and evaluations are complete, the agency will make its final selections sometime in 2013. Training will begin that summer.


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