February 3, 2012
NASA Sees Unusually High Number Of Astronaut Applications
Astronauts may not be as famous as the great Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong these days, but it hasn't stopped individuals from applying to the U.S. space agency.
NASA received its second highest number of astronaut applications between November 15, 2011 and January 27, with 6,300 individuals applying.
"This is a great time to join the NASA family," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement. "Our newest astronauts could launch aboard the first commercial rockets to the space station the next generation of scientists and engineers who will help us reach higher and create an American economy that is built to last."
During the selection process, NASA will conduct interviews and medical examinations to determine which of the 6,300 applicants will become the next astronauts.
The space agency said that it expects to select between nine and 15 people to become part of the 21st astronaut class.
The Astronaut Selection Office staff will review the applications to identify those who meet the minimum requirements.
After that stage, a team mostly composed of active astronauts, will review the applications to determine which ones are highly qualified.
Those individuals who are selected from this stage will be invited to Johnson Space Center for in-person interviews and medical examinations.
"We will be looking for people who really stand out," Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center and chair of the Astronaut Selection Board, said in a press release. "Our team not only will be looking at their academic background and professional accomplishments but also at other elements of their personality and character traits."
Whitson said they will be looking at what types of hobbies the applicants are into, or any kind of unique life experiences they have had.
"We want and need a mix of individuals and skills for this next phase of human exploration," she said.
The space agency will be announcing its final selection of astronaut candidates in the spring of 2013.
The candidates will have to undergo two years of initial training, including learning space station systems, the Russian language and spacewalking.
Those who complete the training will be assigned technical duties within the Astronaut Office at Johnson.
NASA typically receives between 2,500 and 3,500 applications when there is an astronaut vacancy announcement.
The highest response occurred in 1978 with 8,000 applicants, just 9 years after man first stepped foot on the moon.
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