Have you always dreamed of being an astronaut? Here’s you chance. For the first time in more than four years, NASA is accepting applications for future astronauts. The application period began March 1, 2020, and aspiring moon to Mars explorers have until March 31 to apply. NASA expects to select final astronaut candidates in mid-2021.
The call for more astronauts comes at a time when the agency is preparing to send the first woman and next man to the moon with the Artemis program. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement:
America is closer than any other time in history since the Apollo program to returning astronauts to the moon. We will send the first woman and next man to the lunar South Pole by 2024, and we need more astronauts to follow suit on the moon, and then Mars. We’re looking for talented men and women from diverse backgrounds and every walk of life to join us in this new era of human exploration that begins with the Artemis program to the moon. If you have always dreamed of being an astronaut, apply now.
The last time NASA sought astronaut candidates, in late 2015, a record-breaking 18,300 people applied. After more than two years of intensive training, 11 new astronauts selected from that pool graduated earlier this year.
Becoming an astronaut is no easy task, because being an astronaut is no easy task. Those who apply will likely be competing against thousands who have dreamed of and worked toward going to space for as long as they can remember. But somewhere among those applicants are our next astronauts, and we look forward to meeting you.
Since the 1960s, NASA has selected 350 people to train as astronaut candidates for its missions to explore space. With 48 astronauts in the active astronaut corps, more will be needed to serve as crew aboard spacecraft bound for multiple destinations and propel exploration forward as part of the Artemis missions and beyond.
After completing training, NASA said, the new astronauts could launch on American rockets and spacecraft to live and work aboard the International Space Station (ISS), 250 miles (400 km) above Earth. Or they might launch on NASA’s powerful new Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, docking in lunar orbit before taking a new human landing system to the moon’s surface.
NASA currently plans to return humans to the moon in 2024, and to then send astronauts to the lunar surface once per year, and establish sustainable lunar exploration by 2028. NASA hopes that experience on and around the moon will prepare for the first humans to journey to Mars in the mid-2030s.
The basic requirements to apply to be a NASA astronaut include United States citizenship and a master’s degree in a STEM field, including engineering, biological science, physical science, computer science, or mathematics, from an accredited institution. According to a NASA statement, the requirement for the master’s degree can also be met by:
– Two years (36 semester hours or 54 quarter hours) of work toward a Ph.D. program in a related science, technology, engineering or math field
– A completed doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathic medicine degree
– Completion (or current enrollment that will result in completion by June 2021) of a nationally or internationally recognized test pilot school program. However, if test pilot school is your only advanced degree, you must also have a bachelor’s degree or higher in a STEM field.
Candidates also must have at least two years of related, progressively responsible professional experience, or at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. Astronaut candidates must pass the NASA long-duration spaceflight physical.
As part of the application process, applicants will, for the first time, be required to take an online assessment that will require up to two hours to complete. More information about NASA astronaut application requirements.
Bottom line: NASA is now accepting applications for future astronauts. Aspiring moon to Mars explorers have until March 31, 2020, to apply.
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.