Haven’t we all at some point of our lives dreamed of becoming astronauts, flitting through space to reach the farthest edge of our solar system and beyond? NASA is planning to make your dreams come true. Starting from December 14, the US-based space agency will be accepting applications for its Astronaut Candidate Program, as a way of facilitating future manned missions to Mars.
Recent years have seen unprecedented interest in human spaceflight and deep-space exploration, with a special focus on sending humans to the Red Planet. According to the agency, the number of manned spacecraft currently being built in the United States is far higher than at any point in history. Sadly, however, the number of active astronauts in its corps has progressively dwindled from a total of 149 in 2000 to only around 47 at present. As part of the recent announcement, NASA said:
In anticipation of returning human spaceflight launches to American soil, and in preparation for the agency’s journey to Mars, NASA announced it will soon begin accepting applications for the next class of astronaut candidates… future astronauts will launch once again from the Space Coast of Florida on American-made commercial spacecraft, and carry out deep-space exploration missions that will advance a future human mission to Mars.
The application period will run from December 14 all the way to February next year. The selected candidates, whose names will be announced sometime in the middle of 2017, will get the chance to fly on any of the following four US vessels: the International Space Station, two commercial crew spaceships currently under development in the United States and the famous Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (or Orion MPCV), which will be used to carry humans to Mars in the 2030s. The two commercial spacecraft, SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, will be able to accommodate as many as seven astronauts; a feat that could substantially increase the amount of work done while in space. Charles Bolden, the current NASA Administrator, said:
This next group of American space explorers will inspire the Mars generation to reach for new heights, and help us realize the goal of putting boot prints on the Red Planet. Those selected for this service will fly on U.S. made spacecraft from American soil, advance critical science and research aboard the International Space Station, and help push the boundaries of technology in the proving ground of deep space.
It was in 2012 that the space agency conducted a similar “astronaut hunt”. At the time, it received over 6,100 applications, of which only four men and four women were chosen as potential NASA astronauts. This time around, applicants will probably have a better shot at getting selected, thanks to significantly less stringent entry criteria. To be able to apply, however, one has to be a US citizen, with at least a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, engineering, biological science or physical science from an accredited institution. Professional requirements include three years of work in any related field or the experience of flying a jet aircraft for a minimum of 1,000 hours. Physical standards expected from the candidates are as follows:
Distant visual acuity: 20/200 or better uncorrected, correctable to 20/20; Blood pressure: 140/90 measured in a sitting position; Height between 58.5 and 76 inches.
Brian Kelly, the head of Flight Operations at the Houston-based Johnson Space Center, said:
This is an exciting time to be a part of America’s human space flight program. NASA has taken the next step in the evolution of our nation’s human spaceflight program – and our U.S. astronauts will be at the forefront of these new and challenging space flight missions. We encourage all qualified applicants to learn more about the opportunities for astronauts at NASA and apply to join our flight operations team.
Via: ABC News