NASA’s recent call for astronaut wannabes led to an astonishing 12,000 people putting their name forward, with the successful candidates set to be directly involved with the space agency’s ambitious Artemis missions to the moon and beyond.
“We’ve entered a bold new era of space exploration with the Artemis program, and we are thrilled to see so many incredible Americans apply to join us,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said this week. “The next class of Artemis Generation astronauts will help us explore more of the moon than ever before and lead us to the Red Planet.”
The space agency launched its latest recruitment round at the beginning of March, resulting in the second highest number of applicants in its history. The most it’s ever received was 18,300 in 2019, but this time around the requirements were a little more stringent, likely having an effect on numbers.
The numbers are in: more than 12,000 of you have applied to #BeAnAstronaut!
This new #Artemis Generation of @NASA_Astronauts will help us explore the Moon in preparation for Mars. We’ll introduce the new class in the summer of 2021: https://t.co/DNEIVb5TPw pic.twitter.com/gVsa4Y7VAJ
— NASA (@NASA) April 1, 2020
Since its very first recruitment drive in the 1960s, NASA has selected a total of 350 people to train as astronaut candidates for its increasingly challenging space missions.
It currently has 48 men and women working as fully trained astronauts, with the new intake set to serve as crew aboard spacecraft bound for multiple destinations, NASA said.
Successful candidates for the latest intake will embark on two years of initial skills training that will cover spacewalking, robotics, and spacecraft systems, as well as expeditionary behavior skills, such as leadership and teamwork.
In the near-term, the newly qualified space explorers could find themselves launching on American rockets and spacecraft bound for the International Space Station 250 miles above Earth, and also the moon in 2024. Looking further ahead, the first-ever crewed mission to Mars could be on the cards in the 2030s, NASA said.
Anne Roemer, manager of the astronaut selection board and director of human resources at the Johnson Space Center, said America’s space agency has a “strong pool of applicants to choose from,” adding, “It’s always amazing to see the diversity of education, experience, and skills that are represented in our applicants [and we’re] excited to start reviewing astronaut applications to identify the next class of astronaut candidates.”